Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson
29th Governor of New Mexico
In office
January 1, 1995 – January 1, 2003
Lieutenant Walter Bradley
Preceded by Bruce King
Succeeded by Bill Richardson
Personal details
Born Gary Earl Johnson
January 1, 1953 (1953-01-01) (age 58)
Minot, North Dakota
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dee Simms (m. 1977–2005) «start: (1977)–end+1: (2006)»"Marriage: Dee Simms to Gary Johnson" Location: (linkback://
Domestic partner Kate Prusack (fiancée, 2009–present)
Residence Taos, New Mexico
Alma mater University of New Mexico
Profession Businessman
Religion Lutheran[1]
This article is part of a series on
Gary Johnson
Our America Initiative  · Political positions  · 2012 presidential campaign

Gary Earl Johnson (born January 1, 1953) is an American businessman, former Governor of New Mexico, and candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in the 2012 election.[2][3] He served as the 29th Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, and is known for his low-tax libertarian views and his regular participation in triathlons.

Founder of one of New Mexico's largest construction companies,[4] Johnson entered politics for the first time by running for Governor of New Mexico in 1994 on a conservative, low-tax, anti-crime platform.[5] He beat incumbent Democratic governor Bruce King by 50% to 40%. He cut the 10% annual growth in the budget by using his gubernatorial veto on half of bills in the first six months.[4] His use of the veto over his two terms gained him the nickname "Governor Veto".[6][7]

He sought re-election in 1998, winning by 55% to 45%. In his second term, he concentrated on the issue of school voucher reforms,[8] as well as campaigning for marijuana decriminalization. During his tenure as governor, he adhered strictly to an anti-tax, anti-bureaucracy program, and set state and national records for his use of veto powers:[4] more than the other 49 contemporary governors put together.[9][10] Term-limited, Johnson could not run for reelection at the end of his second term.

A fitness enthusiast,[11][12] Johnson has taken part in several Ironman Triathlons, and he climbed Mount Everest in May 2003.[13] He announced his candidacy for President on April 21, 2011.[14]


Early life

Johnson was born in 1953 in Minot, North Dakota, the son of Lorraine B. (née Bostow) and Earl W. Johnson.[15] His father was a public school teacher, while his mother worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.[16]

Johnson graduated from Sandia High School in Albuquerque in 1971, where he was on the school track team.[17] He attended the University of New Mexico from 1971 to 1975 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree.[18] It was there that he met his future wife, Denise "Dee" Simms.

While in college, Johnson earned money as a door-to-door handyman.[19] His success in that arena encouraged him to start his own business, Big J Enterprises, in 1976. When he started the business, which focused on mechanical contracting, Johnson was its only employee.[20] His major break with the firm was receiving a large contract from Intel's expansion in Rio Rancho, which increased Big J's revenue to $38 million.[16]

Over-stretched by his success, Johnson enrolled in a time management course at night school, which made him heavily goal-driven.[16] He eventually grew Big J into a multi-million dollar corporation with over 1,000 employees.[21] By the time he sold the company in 1999, it was one of New Mexico's leading construction companies.[22]

Governor of New Mexico

First term

Johnson entered politics for the first time in 1994, with the intention of running for governor and was advised by "Republican Elders"[16] to run for the State Legislature instead.[16] Despite their advice, Johnson spent $500,000 of his own money and entered the race with the intent of bringing a "common sense business approach" to the office.[23] Johnson's campaign slogan was "People before Politics".[24] His platform emphasized tax cuts, job creation, state government spending growth restraint, and law and order.[5]

He won the Republican nomination, defeating state legislator Richard P. Cheney by 34% to 33%, with John Dendahl and former governor David F. Cargo in third and fourth. Johnson also won the general election, defeating the incumbent Democratic Governor Bruce King by 50% to 40%. Johnson was elected in a nationally Republican year, although party registration in the state of New Mexico at the time was 2-to-1 Democratic.

As governor, Johnson followed a strict small government approach. According to former New Mexico Republican National Committee member Mickey D. Barnett, "Any time someone approached him about legislation for some purpose, his first response always was to ask if government should be involved in that to begin with."[25] He vetoed 200 of 424 bills in his first six months in office – a national record of 48% of all legislation – and used the line-item veto on most remaining bills.[4]

In office, Johnson fulfilled his campaign promise to reduce the 10% annual growth of the state budget.[citation needed] In his first budget, Johnson proposed a wide range of tax cuts, including a repeal of the prescription drug tax, a $47 million income tax cut, and a 6 cents per gallon gasoline tax cut. However, of these, only the gasoline tax cut was passed.[26] During the November 1995 federal government shutdown, he joined 20 other Republican governors who called on the Republican leadership in Congress to stand firm in negotiations against the Clinton administration in budget negotiations; in the article reporting on the letter and concomitant news conference he was quoted as calling for eliminating the budget deficit through proportional cuts across the budget.[27]

Although Johnson worked to reduce overall state spending, in his first term he raised education spending by nearly a third.[11] When drop-out rates and test scores showed little improvement, Johnson changed his tactics and began advocating for school vouchers – a key issue in budget battles of his second term.[11]

Like other southwestern states, New Mexico must deal with a scarcity of fresh water and threats of drought,[citation needed] and these issues were acute in the late 1990s. In 1998, Johnson established a state drought task force; the result was a coordinated effort among state and federal officials to anticipate drought conditions and disseminate information ahead of an actual shortage.[28]

Second term

In 1998, Johnson ran for re-election as governor against Democratic Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. In his campaign, he promised to continue the policies of his first term: improving schools; cutting state spending, taxes, and bureaucracy; and frequent use of his veto power.[29] Fielding a strong Hispanic candidate in a 40% Hispanic state, the Democrats were expected to oust Johnson,[11] but Johnson won by a 55%-to-45% margin:[30] making him the first Governor of New Mexico to serve two four-year terms after term limits were expanded to two terms in 1991.[23]

Johnson made the promotion of a school voucher system a "hallmark issue" of his second term.[31] In 1999, he proposed the first statewide voucher system in America, which would have enrolled 100,000 students in its first year.[11] That year, he vetoed two budgets that failed to include a voucher program and a government shutdown was threatened,[11] but ultimately yielded to Democratic majorities in both houses of the New Mexico Legislature, who opposed the plan. Johnson signed the budget, but line-item vetoed a further $21m, or 0.5%, from the legislative plan.[32]

In 1999, Johnson became one of the highest-ranking elected officials in the United States to advocate the legalization of marijuana.[33] Saying the War on Drugs was "an expensive bust," he advocated the decriminalization of marijuana use and concentration on harm reduction measures for all other illegal drugs. "He compared attempts to enforce the nation's drug laws with the failed attempt at alcohol prohibition. Half of what government spends on police, courts and prisons is to deal with drug offenders."[20] He suggests that drug abuse be treated as a health issue, not as a criminal issue. His approach to the issue garnered supportive notice from conservative icon William F. Buckley,[34] as well as the Cato Institute and Rolling Stone.[16]

In 2000, Johnson proposed a more ambitious voucher program than he had proposed the year before, under which each parent would receive $3,500 per child for education at any private or parochial school.[31] The Democrats sought $90m extra school funding without school vouchers, and questioned Johnson's request for more funding for state-run prisons, having opposed his opening of two private prisons.[35] Negotiations between the governor and the legislature were contentious, again nearly leading to shut down the government.

In 2000, New Mexico was devastated by the Cerro Grande Fire. Johnson's handling of the disaster earned him accolades from the The Denver Post, which observed that he:

was all over the Cerro Grande Fire last week. He helped reporters understand where the fire was headed when low-level Forest Service officials couldn't, ran herd over the bureaucratic process of getting state and federal agencies and the National Guard involved, and even helped put out some of the fire with his feet. On a tour of Los Alamos last Wednesday, when he saw small flames spreading across a lawn, he had his driver stop his car. He jumped out and stomped on the flames, as did his wife and some of his staffers.[12]

Johnson's leadership during the fire was praised by Democratic Congressman Tom Udall, who said: "I think the real test of leadership is when you have circumstances like this. He's called on his reserves of energy and has just been a really excellent leader under very difficult circumstances here."[12]

He rebuffed efforts by the Libertarian Party to draft him in the 2000 presidential election, stating he is an unwavering Republican.[36]


In an interview in Reason magazine in January 2001, Johnson's accomplishments in office were described as follows: "no tax increases in six years, a major road building program, shifting Medicaid to managed care, constructing two new private prisons, canning 1,200 state employees, and vetoing a record number of bills."[23]

Andrew Sullivan quoted a claim that Johnson "is highly regarded in the state for his outstanding leadership during two terms as governor. He slashed the size of state government during his term and left the state with a large budget surplus."[37]

According to one New Mexico paper, "Johnson left the state fiscally solid," and was "arguably the most popular governor of the decade . . . leaving the state with a $1 billion budget surplus."[38] The Washington Times has reported that when Johnson left office, "the size of state government had been substantially reduced and New Mexico was enjoying a large budget surplus."[25]

According to a profile of Johnson in the National Review, "During his tenure, he vetoed more bills than the other 49 governors combined — 750 in total, one third of which had been introduced by Republican legislators. Johnson also used his line-item-veto power thousands of times. He credits his heavy veto pen for eliminating New Mexico's budget deficit and cutting the growth rate of New Mexico's government in half."[39] Johnson has "said his numerous vetoes, only two of which were overridden, stemmed from his philosophy of looking at all things for their cost-benefit ratio and his axe fell on Republicans as well as Democrats."[20]

Post-gubernatorial life

Logo of the Our America Initiative, which Johnson founded in 2009.
Johnson speaking at a Nullify Now! event in downtown Phoenix, Arizona in January 2011.

Johnson was term limited and could not run for a third consecutive term as governor in 2002.[40] In the 2008 presidential election campaign, Johnson endorsed Ron Paul for the Republican nomination.[41]

Johnson serves on the Advisory Council of Students for Sensible Drug Policy,[42] a student nonprofit organization that believes that the war on drugs needs to be reevaluated. As of April 2011, he serves on the board of directors of Students For Liberty, a college-age national political organization.[43]

2012 presidential campaign


Johnson indicated interest in running for President of the United States in the 2012 election.[44][45] In December 2009, Johnson hired strategist Ronald T. Nielson of NSON Opinion Strategy to organize the 501(c)(4) committee Our America Initiative. Nielson has worked with Johnson since 1993 when he ran his successful gubernatorial campaign.

In the April 20, 2009 edition of The American Conservative Magazine, Bill Kauffman told readers to "keep an eye out" for a Johnson presidential campaign in 2012, reporting that Johnson had told him that "he was keeping his options open for 2012" and that "he may take a shot at the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 as an antiwar, anti-Fed, pro-personal liberties, slash-government-spending candidate — in other words, a Ron Paul libertarian".[44]

During a June 24, 2009 appearance on Fox News's Freedom Watch, host Judge Andrew Napolitano asked Johnson if he would run for President in 2012, to which Johnson responded that he thought it would be inappropriate to openly express his desires before President Obama is given the opportunity to prove himself, but he followed up that statement by saying "it appears personal freedoms are being shoveled out the window more and more."[46][not in citation given]

In an October 26, 2009 interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican's Steve Terrell, Johnson announced his decision to form an advocacy committee called the Our America Initiative to help him raise funds and promote small government ideas. The stated focus of the organization is to "...speak out on issues regarding topics such as government efficiency, lowering taxes, ending the war on drugs, protecting civil liberties, revitalizing the economy and promoting entrepreneurship and privatization".[47] The move prompted speculation among media pundits and Johnson's supporters that he may be laying the groundwork for a 2012 presidential run.[48][49]

Throughout 2010, Johnson repeatedly deflected questions about a 2012 presidential bid by saying his 501(c)(4) status forbids him from expressing a desire to run for federal office on politics.[50][51] However, he has been outspoken about the issues affecting the country, particularly "the size and cost of government" and the "deficits and debt that truly threaten to consume the U.S. economy, and which represent the single greatest threat to our national security."[52]

CPAC 2011

In February 2011, Johnson was a featured speaker at both the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the Republican Liberty Caucus.[53] At CPAC, "the crowd liked him – even as he pushed some of his more controversial points."[54] Johnson tied with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for third in the CPAC Straw Poll, trailing only Ron Paul and Mitt Romney (and ahead of such notables as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and former Alaska Governor and 2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin).[55] David Weigel of Slate called Johnson the second-biggest winner of the conference, writing that his "third-place showing in the straw poll gave Johnson his first real media hook ... He met tons of reporters, commanded a small scrum after the vote, and is a slightly lighter shade of dark horse now."[56]

Primary campaign

On April 21, 2011 Johnson announced via Twitter, "I am running for president."[57] He followed this announcement with a speech at the New Hampshire State House in Concord, New Hampshire.[14] He was the first of an eventually large field to announce his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.[58]

Johnson chose Ron Neilson, the director of both his New Mexico gubernatorial campaigns, as his presidential campaign director.[58] As a result, his campaign is being run from Salt Lake City, Utah.[58] Johnson's economics advisor is Harvard economics professor Jeffrey Miron.[59]

Initially, Johnson hoped Ron Paul would not run for President so that Johnson could galvanize from Paul's network of libertarian-minded voters.[58] Johnson even traveled to Houston to tell Paul of his decision to run in person.[58] But Paul announced his candidacy on May 13, 2011.

Johnson participated in the first of the Republican presidential debates, hosted by Fox News in South Carolina on May 5, 2011, appearing on stage with Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum. Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann both declined to debate.

Johnson was excluded from the next three debates on June 13 (hosted by CNN in New Hampshire), August 11 (hosted by Fox News in Iowa), and September 7 (hosted by CNN in California).[58] After the first exclusion, Johnson made a 43-minute video responding to each of the debate questions, which he posted on Youtube.[58][60] The first exclusion, which was widely publicized, gave Johnson "a little bump" in name recognition and produced "a small uptick" in donations.[58] But "the long term consequences were dismal."[58] For the financial quarter ending June 30, Johnson raised a mere $180,000.[58] Despite the fact that, in some polls, Johnson polled higher than Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman, who were invited to debates, Johnson was not.[58]

Then, on September 21, Fox News decided that because Johnson polled at least 2% in five recent polls, he could participate in a September 23 debate in Florida, which it co-hosted with the Florida Republican Party (the party objected to Johnson's inclusion).[58] Johnson participated, appearing on stage with Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. During the debate, Johnson delivered what many media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, and Time, called the best line of the night: "My next-door neighbor's two dogs have created more shovel ready jobs than this administration."[61][62] Entertainment Weekly even opined that Johnson had won the debate.[63]

Johnson is focusing the majority of his campaign activites on the New Hampshire primary.[58]

Political positions

Johnson holds fiscally conservative, socially liberal libertarian views,[64] and a philosophy of limited government.[65]

Personal life


Johnson was married to Dee Johnson née Simms (1952–2006) from 1977 to 2005.[66] As First Lady, she engaged in campaigns against smoking and breast cancer, [67] and oversaw the enlargement of the Governor's Mansion. He initiated a separation in May 2005, and announced they were getting divorced four months later.[68] Dee Johnson died unexpectedly on December 22, 2006, at the age of 54.[69] It was established in February 2007 that her death was caused by hypertensive heart disease.[70] Syndicated columnist John Dendahl expressed shock upon her death, as she had been "very vivacious" only two weeks previously. After her death, Johnson said, "People couldn't have gotten a better number one volunteer, because that's what she was. Whatever [the issue] was, she had a caring approach."[69]

Johnson and his late wife have two grown children:[66] a daughter, Seah (born 1979), and a son, Erik (born 1982).[71]

He is engaged to Santa Fe real estate agent Kate Prusack, whom he began dating in 2008 after meeting on a bike ride. Johnson proposed in 2009 on the chair lift at Taos Ski Valley Resort in New Mexico.[72] He lives with Prusack in Taos, New Mexico,[73][74] in a home that he built himself.[54]


Johnson is an avid triathlete who bikes extensively and abstains from all recreational drug use, caffeine, alcohol, and some sugar products. During his term in office, he competed in several triathlons, marathons and bike races. He competed three times (1993, 1997, 1999) as celebrity invitee at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, registering his best time for the 2.4-mile (3.9 km) swim, 112-mile (180 km) bike ride, and 26.2-mile (42.2 km) marathon run in 1999 with 10 hours, 39 minutes and 16 seconds.[75][76] He once ran 100 miles (160 km) in 30 consecutive hours in the Rocky Mountains.[16]

On May 30, 2003, he reached the summit of Mount Everest[13] "despite toes blackened with frostbite."[25] He has also climbed three more of the Seven Summits: Mount Elbrus, Mount McKinley, and Mount Kilimanjaro—the tallest peaks in Europe, North America, and Africa respectively.

On October 12, 2005, Johnson was involved in a near fatal paragliding accident when his wing got caught in a tree and he fell approximately fifty feet to the ground. Johnson suffered multiple bone fractures, including a burst fracture to his T12 vertebrae, a broken rib, and a broken knee.[77] He used marijuana for pain control from 2005 to 2008.[78]

Electoral history

New Mexico gubernatorial election, 1994[79]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Gary Johnson 232,945 49.81% +4.66%
Democratic Bruce King (inc.) 186,686 39.92% -14.68%
Green Roberto Mondragón 47,990 10.26%
New Mexico gubernatorial election, 1998[80]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Gary Johnson (inc.) 271,948 54.53% +4.72%
Democratic Martin Chávez 226,755 45.47% +5.55%


  • Seven Principles of Good Government (2011, TBA)


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  80. ^

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Frank Bond
Republican nominee for Governor of New Mexico
1994, 1998
Succeeded by
John Sanchez
Political offices
Preceded by
Bruce King
Governor of New Mexico
Succeeded by
Bill Richardson

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  • William Gary Johnson — Bunk Johnson William Gary „Bunk“ Johnson (* 27. Dezember 1879 in New Orleans; † 7. Juli 1949 in New Iberia in Louisiana), war US amerikanischer Kornettist und Trompeter des traditionellen Jazz. Bunk Johnson gehörte zur ersten Generation der …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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