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Time Capsule: Governor Gary Johnson Leaves R Primary; (Re-) Registers As Libertarian; Seeks LP POTUS Nomination

photo credits, Joseph Buchman

Dateline: 28 December 2011, Santa Fe, NM, Capitol rotunda.

Former New Mexico Governor (1995 – 2003) Gary Johnson dropped out of the Republican Presidential Primary earlier today, (re-) registered as a member of the Libertarian Party, and announced his intention to seek the Libertarian Party’s Presidential nomination at the Party’s convention in Las Vegas in early May 2012.

Present for the announcement (in addition to your reporter) were Governor Johnson, then LNC Chair Mark Hinkle. Johnson campaign manager Ron Nielson, other campaign staff, and members of the media. The announcement made various headlines in the following days, including:

“Bye bye, GOP: Former Gov. Gary Johnson will become a Libertarian candidate for president,” Alamogordo Daily News, 28 December 2011, page 1.

“Snubbed Johnson Turns to Libertarians,” Daily News-Record, Harrisonburg, VA; 29 December 2011, pB6.

“Johnson defects to Libertarian Party,” Alamogordo Daily News, 04 January 2012, p 4A.

“Gary Johnson goes Libertarian for election,” Roswell Daily Record, 04 January 2012, pA4.

Prior to the announcement, the Libertarian Party posted a Press Release at, which read, in part:

“Libertarians Welcome Governor Gary Johnson to Party, Presidential Race

“Today at 10:00 am MST, Governor Gary Johnson is expected to announce his candidacy and to join the Libertarian Party with Mark Hinkle, Chair at a press conference at the State Capitol in Santa Fe, New Mexico. . . . Governor Johnson . . . vetoed more bills than all other governors in the country combined . . . (and) proposed a substantial reduction in federal spending. Libertarians look forward to learning the specifics and the time frame of that reduction.

. . .

“Regarding the charge that the Libertarian Party could “spoil” the election for the Republican nominee, Carla Howell, Executive Director said, “You can make that case only if Ron Paul is the Republican nominee. If any other remaining contender in the GOP primary were to win, then the Republicans will offer a choice for more Big Government and higher taxes. You can’t spoil tainted meat. . . . Should one of the non-Paul candidates prevail, then the Libertarian Party will be our only means to restore fiscal sanity, to create a friendly business environment and to create desperately-needed new jobs,” said Howell.”

The full press release can be found HERE.

From, crawled 26 Dec 2011 by the Wayback machine (HERE).


About Post Author

Joseph Buchman

Joe is a retired, formerly tenured professor of marketing and finance with a passion for adventure travel, chasing total solar eclipses, and Burning Man. He is a long-time volunteer with the Sundance Film Festival, former Chair of the Utah Libertarian Party, former Chair of the LP Platform Committee, and former Chair and three-term member of the LP's financial Audit Committee. Joe and Cindy have raised four highly successful children, several cats, and yet have generally failed miserably with every houseplant ever gifted to them.


  1. Traditionalist Traditionalist December 31, 2021

    I agree with him. Far from being legalized, marijuana should be intensely cracked down on by law enforcement and the military. The excessive tolerance of marijuana and other illegal drugs in recent decades has been one of the major reasons for the precipitous declines of Western Civilization. The war on drugs is quite winnable; China won its war with opium in the 19th century, and Duterte is winning the war on drugs in the Philippines.

    I disagree with the contention above that our mostly rhetorical and halfhearted war on drugs is unconstitutional.
    Article 1, Section 8 gives Congress the authority to suppress insurrections and repel invasions. Narcoterrorism, including state sponsored, and the communist promotion of illegal drug use to weaken the moral character and defenses of Western nations, is concerted chemical and biological warfare against the United States and its allies.

    Congress has the power to lay duties and excises. If drug producers, smugglers, dealers, and users find those to be prohibitively excessive, that doesn’t make such duties and excises unconstitutional. Congress may also provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States, both of which a real war against drugs would certainly be. It can regulate commerce with foreign nations and between states. The latter power has been too broadly interpreted since the 1930s, but nevertheless is legitimate in its original interpretation.

    There is also a power to define and punish felonies on the high seas. And, ending a wholesale nerve agent attack on the mental capacity of our populace is necessary and proper for the execution of those powers and all others listed in Article 1, Section 8.

    The war against dangerous illegal drugs is constitutional, and ideally a real one should be declared by congress, but even short of that, what passes for a war against drugs is both constitutional and necessary.

  2. Richard Winger Richard Winger December 30, 2021

    Virgil Goode said in the minor party presidential debate that he was against legalizing marijuana.

  3. George Whitfield George Whitfield December 29, 2021

    Jared, I agree with you on supporting Justin Amash. He has impressed me.

  4. Jared Jared December 29, 2021

    My expectations for Gary Johnson were pretty low in 2012, but 2016 was pure disappointment. Four years after his first attempt, during an election season when voters were desperate for a viable alternative, Johnson’s libertarianism seemed even shallower and he came across as permanently baked. Bill Weld of course was the cherry on top.

    Right now the only former (R) politician I’d support as the nominee is Justin Amash, only because he has demonstrated integrity and there’s a philosophical backbone to his libertarianism. It isn’t just an accidental collocation of libertarianish policy preferences. He ditched his party as a sitting Congressman because he stuck to his principles and defied the party establishment, not because he was washed up or too centrist for the GOP.

  5. Andy Andy December 29, 2021

    “for fighting the menaces of drugs”

    The War on Drugs is unconstitutional.

  6. Andy Andy December 29, 2021

    December 29, 2021 at 04:07
    Goode had one of the best records of anyone in congress, particularly in regards to the grave dangers posed to our nation and the entire world by Islamic fascism and the flood of low quality third world immigrants into the United States ‘

    I agree with him there, and he could have been good on a few things, but I looked up his record back in 2012, and it was not good. He voted for the Patriot Act. He was also in favor of the wars in the Middle East. He was also a big pork barrel spender. His nomination was considered to be controversial within the Constiutiton Party, and I know there were Constiutiton Party people who did not support him.

  7. Traditionalist Traditionalist December 29, 2021

    Goode had one of the best records of anyone in congress, particularly in regards to the grave dangers posed to our nation and the entire world by Islamic fascism and the flood of low quality third world immigrants into the United States and other European based nations. He was also particularly strong in working to bring the abortion holocaust to an end and preserve our Second Amendment rights. He showed courage in standing up to the corruption of the Clinton crime family back when he was still a Democrat. In general, he held up conservative principles, regardless of party.

    He stood up for balanced budgets and for keeping spending under control, against the homosexual agenda, against coddling criminals, for allowing God and prayer back in the schools, for fighting the menaces of drugs and terrorism and for strong enforcement on the border, including deployment of the military. He voted to support energy independence, and had a strong record on family values, fair trade and protecting American jobs, and on down the line had a very good voting record compared with other congressmen, although certainly not perfect.

    I judged him on his record in office. Pay disputes with campaign staffers or campaign management in general were not on my radar. He was far and away better on the issues than Barack Hussein Osama, Willard Romney, or goofy stoned Johnson.

  8. Austin Cassidy Austin Cassidy December 29, 2021

    Wow, has it been 10 years already?

    I had the opportunity to meet Governor Johnson briefly at an event in Jacksonville, FL. Seemed like a very nice, genuine guy.

  9. Andy Andy December 28, 2021

    Virgil Goode was not a good candidate at all, and not just because he ripped me off, but that certainly added to him not being a good candidate.

  10. Traditionalist Traditionalist December 28, 2021

    Johnson came off as goofy, stoned, and leftist on far too many issues. Virgil Goode was a better option in 2012, and of course Donald Trump was far and away much better than the pathetic libertarian offerings in 2016 and 2020.

  11. George Whitfield George Whitfield December 28, 2021

    I was happy to vote for Gary Johnson in both the 2012 and 2016 elections. I appreciate all of his efforts to build our party.

  12. Andy Andy December 28, 2021

    Johnson’s vote total in 2016 had more to do with disgust over Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and weak competition from other minor party and independent candidates, than it had to do with anything that Johnson & Weld did.

  13. Nathan Norman Nathan Norman December 28, 2021

    The “” link infers Johnson had better results in 2012 than in 2016. Despite all the screwups: “What is Aleppo?”, suggestively sticking his tongue out at a reporter (I guess signaling he wanted to do the act that gave Michael Douglas cancer), or calling Weld the “original Libertarian”; Johnson got a higher percentage of the vote in 2016 than in 2012. I proposed this may have been due to Johnson emphasizing space colonization as a solution to global climate change in the later days of the campaign, taking an idea I brought to the forefront of the campaign. I wrote an article about this that IPR graciously published:

  14. Andy Andy December 28, 2021

    I never really got into the whole Gary Johnson thing. Sure, I had high hopes for him at first, but they quickly faded by his support for the Fair Tax, and after I found out, through my own research, which was later confirmed by others, that he had wildly exaggerated his record on pardons from when he was Governor of New Mexico, as during the 8 years he was Governor, he only pardoned around 26 people (I think that is the correct number, but if I am off, I am not off by much), and he only did this AFTER these people had already served their sentences behind bars, so he never released one person from jail or prison who was in for a victimless crime, or who was otherwise falsely convicted, while he was Governor of New Mexico. I also found out that the state debt more than doubled under his tenure as Governor. Also, I found it to be kind of disturbing that he bragged that one of his biggest accomplishments as Governor of New Mexico was privatizing some of the prisons. My take on this is that this is not much of a libertarian accomplishment considering that the private prisons are still funded by the taxpayers, and they still lock lots of people up for victimless crimes, as well as people who got unfairly railroaded in court. Private prisons are also big donors to campaigns to increase the police state. Maybe one day in some far off libertarian anarcho-capitalist society private prisons could function in a libertarian manner, but in our present reality they do not.

    It was for these reasons above, as well as some other reasons, that I did not vote for Gary Johnson for President in 2012. I cast a write in vote for None Of The Above for President in the general election (I did vote for the other Libertarian Party candidates who were on my ballot though). This was a difficult decision though. I WANTED to get behind Gary Johnson, and I will say that his 2012 campaign, in spite of its flaws, was not as bad as his 2016 campaign, but I just could not get into it.

    It was a much easier decision for me to not vote for Gary Johnson in 2016, especially after he had teamed up with the obviously awful Bill Weld. In addition to them gushing over how wonderful Hillary Clinton is, and their numerous campaign stances that were AGAINST the Libertarian Party’s platform and the philosophy, and their gaffes while on the campaign trail, there were also problems with how the campaign was being run, and them having hid a huge campaign debt until after he won the nomination. So in the general election in 2012, I decided to vote the Constitutiion Party’s presidential ticket of Darrell Castle and Scott Bradley, who were on my ballot, and who were more libertarian than Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. I did vote for the other Libertarian Party candidates who were on my ballot for that election.

  15. Joseph Buchman Joseph Buchman Post author | December 28, 2021

    After 2008, I swore I’d never support another (so-called “former”) Republican for any LP nomination. Then I read where Republican Governor Gary Johnson had been a registered Libertarian and was not joining, but *returning to* the Libertarian Party. I felt strongly enough about that, that I drove to Santa Fe for the announcement. Met Mark Hinkle, saw the records Robert Kraus (or someone on staff) had found confirming Gary’s prior status as a registered Libertarian, met Gary (genuinely hospitable), and spoke to Ron Nielson at some length about joining the campaign (which was surprisingly based in Salt Lake City, not far from our home in Park City). Unfortunately I had only the very poor quality camera on my cell phone to take the photos included in this article. Eventually I became the guy on staff who vetted each of the down-ticket LP candidates, wrote their endorsements on behalf of the governor, and attempted to retain ballot access in Oregon by working with Wes Wagner and (to a lesser degree) Richard Burke. It was an interesting year.

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