At 61, Gary Johnson is a competitive skier, has climbed Mount Everest and wants to climb the highest peak on all seven continents.
His climbed Everest the tallest mountain in the world on a broken leg in 2003. But another goal might prove to be an even higher hurdle: Getting elected president of the United States as a Libertarian.
The former two-term governor of New Mexico who ran as a Libertarian in 2012 is not a candidate in 2016 yet. But he sounded like one as he worked the room at The Bull restaurant in downtown Mobile on Monday while soliciting donations for his organization, Our America Initiative.
I was born with an overdose of common sense, he told a crowd of about 20 as he shared his views on the economy, health care, foreign policy and social issues.
Johnson apparently also was born with a healthy dose of self-confidence. He predicted he would be a wildly successful president.
Johnson will attend a fundraiser in Montgomery Tuesday afternoon before participating in a forum on environmental policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham s Blazer Hall at 6 p.m. He will close out his Alabama trip at a fundraiser at Riverchase Country Club in Birmingham.
Diehard supporters would like to see Johnson give the presidency another shot. A to draft him has garnered 1,170 signatures.
Dennis Knizley, a Mobile lawyer who serves on the Alabama Libertarian Party Executive Committee, noted that Johnson s experience in high office sets him apart from many other of the party s candidates.
To the Libertarians, he s a godsend, he said.
Libertarians remain longshots
Johnson began the 2012 campaign season as a candidate for president in the Republican primaries. That was the same party banner he carried during two successful runs for New Mexico governor from 1995 to 2003.
After finding himself excluded from primary debates, though, Johnson quit the party and sought the Libertarian nomination. He won almost 1.3 million votes, a record for a Libertarian.
The party remains a longshot in most races, however particularly in Alabama, which has in the country when it comes to getting on the ballot as a third-party candidate. Johnson said in an interview that Alabama was one of two states where he appeared on the ballot without the Libertarian Party label in 2012 because the state requires fewer signatures from independent candidates.
Alabama state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, has introduced a bill several years in a row to loosen those rules. But the legislation has gone nowhere.
In an interview, Johnson said there is no hypocrisy in his stance. As New Mexico governor, he said he signed a law that made it easier for third-party candidates to run.
Leigh LaChine, the chairman of the Alabama Libertarian Party, said the party has qualified for ballot access in Jefferson County for this November s election and will work for getting on the ballot statewide by 2016.
Our America Initiative, the group where Johnson serves as honorary chairman, has filed a lawsuit in Washington against the Commission on Presidential Debates in an attempt to force more inclusion in debates before the presidential election. He said a fair criterion would be to allow any candidate who appears on the ballot in enough states to mathematically able to be elected president. In 2012, four candidates met that hurdle President Barack Obama, Republican Mitt Romney, Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
In his remarks at The Bull, Johnson displayed a feisty style as he answered questions about his political views and his track record as government. He recalled starting a business as a one-person handyman and growing it to more than 1,000 employees before he sold the company in 1999.
Led the nation in vetoes
He expressed pride in recounting that he vetoed 750 bills as governor perhaps more than the other 49 governors combined, he added.
In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin, Johnson said, You would think I would have been ridden out on a rail. Well, it didn t happen.
During his eight years, Johnson said, legislators only overrode two vetoes an insignificant measure dealing with beds in nursing homes and the budget during his final year in office.
He said people would be hard-pressed to find a candidate who is more fiscally conservative than he is. He said he also is a flaming liberal when it comes to civil liberties.
Johnson said he would balance the federal budget by cutting spending to the tune of 25 percent. That includes popular entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, as well as Medicaid and defense spending.
To a questioner who expressed concern about Russia, he said a 25 percent defense cut would take the county back to 2007 spending levels more than enough to defend America. He also said the country ought not to intervene in Russia or the affairs of other countries.
Asked if he d like to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, Johnson quipped: I d like to play him in chess.
Asked about the Affordable Care Act, Johnson told his audience that his premiums jumped from 3 to 5 a month because of the law. He said he would radically reform health care and insurance, which he maintained should be a safeguard against catastrophic events, not a payment vehicle for routine expenses.
Johnson said a true free market in medicine which he said did not exist prior to the law known as Obamacare would result in better care at lower prices. He said he envisions businesses in the vein of Gallbladders R Us, which would perform procedures for thousands of dollars instead of tens of thousands of dollars.
Although Libertarians preach small government, Johnson made clear that does not mean no government. He said the government has a role to play in protecting the environment. He said he favors marriage equality and, in response to a question, said his gut reaction to a proposed law in Arizona allowing business owners to refuse to serve gays and lesbians, would be to veto it.
In an interview, Johnson drew a parallel to the civil rights era and asked if Alabama would have retained segregation if Congress had not acted. He said it probably would have.Updated at 11:59 p.m. to reflect Gary Johnson's previous Everest climb.
A federal report claims that allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior were determined to be unfounded, when prisoners failed or refused to submit to lie-detector tests.
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