Gary Earl Johnson, the former two-term Governor of New Mexico, declared his entry into the Republican nomination race for the 2012 Presidential Election on April 21, 2011. He subsequently announced his intention to seek the Libertarian nomination on December 28, 2011, citing the need to bring the Libertarian voice back into the election process. Pundits, however, speculate that the decision was probably made in response to him being sidelined by the GOP leadership throughout the 2011 campaign season.
The 58-year old, a renowned triathlete and construction company owner, known for his strong Libertarian inclination, is an enigma to the party’s grassroots. The practical and conservative approach he advocates during his days as the Governor of New Mexico contrasts strongly with his more recent comments, which has grown increasingly 'Ron-Paulish' in recent years. However, Johnson remains one of the few GOP gubernatorial qualified success stories in recent years, and therein lies his appeal with the party cadres and grassroots.
His entry into politics was a low-key affair, driven mainly by a core of loyal backers. The then inexperienced Johnson was hardly given a chance in the run up to the New Mexico gubernatorial race in 1994, especially after being rebuffed by the state Republican Party who ‘suggested’ that he should instead seek a seat at the State Legislature first .
However, his doggedness saw him scrapping past his Republican challenger in primary, Richard P. Cheney, by a mere 1%, winning 34% of the ballots. The win was all the more impressive considering his campaign was funded almost entirely from the $500,000 he himself contributed to the campaign. However, with the Republican Party machinery firmly behind him in the actual election, Johnson soundly, although very surprisingly, defeated the incumbent Governor, Democrat Bruce King, by an impressive 50% to 40%. He repeated the feat four years later by triumphing over Democrat Albert Chavez by another comprehensive 55% to 45% margin to win the reelection – a particularly impressive feat in a state with a 40% Latin population.
His time in New Mexico was typified by his aggressive cost cutting measures aimed at eliminating the state’s budget deficit and spending growth. Johnson, armed with the lessons learnt building his construction firm, was known to be a decisive, yet collaborative operator whose is most often remembered as the Governor who never increased taxes during his tenure as Governor of New Mexico.