|Johnson announces in Rotunda|
Photo by Clyde Mueller for The New Mexican
At his news conference in the Roundhouse Rotunda, Johnson, who has described himself as a lifelong Republican, announced he is leaving the GOP. Moments later he formally signed a voter registration form declaring himself a Libertarian.
Mark Hinkle, chairman of the national Libertarian Party, traveled from California to speak at Johnson's news conference. Officially Hinkle is neutral in the race, which has nine other declared candidates. But he did note that Johnson is the first two-term governor of any state to join the Libertarian Party.
A spokeswoman for the state GOP said in an e-mail today, "I do not anticipate us having any comment on Johnson's decision to run as a Libertarian."
A spokesman for the current Republican governor of the state, said Gov. Susana Martinez had no comment on Johnson.
Hinkle said that Johnson actually is coming back to the Libertarian Party. He had been a dues paying member back when he was governor, Hinkle said.
Johnson later told reporters that even though he liked President Reagan, in 1984 Johnson voted for the Libertarian candidate because of the debt incurred during Reagan's first term.
He said he supported Ron Paul for president in 2008 and still prefers Paul to the other current Republican presidential candidates. But he said, despite Paul's high poll numbers in Iowa, he doesn't expect Paul to be the GOP nominee.
Asked about the differences between him and Paul, Johnson said, "I am not a social conservative."
Johnson promised to reduce federal spending by 43 percent to balance the national budget; to do away with all current federal taxes to be replaced by a "fair tax" of 23 percent on all goods and services; to "reduce welfare and reduce warfare"; to fight for gun rights as well as gay rights; and to legalize marijuana and change its classification as a "schedule one" drug.
Johnson said it should be easier for Mexican citizens who want to work in the U.S. to get work permits
In today's New Mexican, I quoted UNM political science professor Lonna Atkeson saying that even though the Libertarian Party could be on all state ballots in November, running as a Libertarian will be an extremely uphill battle for Johnson because historically that party -- as well as most third parties in history -- has been handicapped by a lack of resources.
That's not likely to change next year, Atkeson said.
She also noted that Johnson, as a Libertarian, likely would face the same problem he faced while seeking the Republican nomination — being excluded from the televised debates. Not since the 1996 election, when Texas businessman Ross Perot ran on the Reform Party ticket, has a third party been included in a general election debate.
"The debates have been institutionalized, and it's hard for a third party to be included," Atkeson said.
Asked about that today, Johnson said he believes that there's a "real possibility" that he will be included in next fall's debates.
Updated 2:10 p.m. I added the "no comment" from the state Republican Party.