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Gary Johnson
Gary Johnson
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Johnson's Story

  • Intro

    Governor Gary Earl Johnson is an American businessman and politician who is considering a run for President of the United States in 2016.

    Johnson is a Libertarian, or classical liberal, as was President Thomas Jefferson. Like the majority of Americans, Johnson is more fiscally conservative than Governor Jeb Bush and more socially liberal than Secretary Hillary Clinton. Johnson believes in free enterprise, foreign non-interventionism, limited government, marijuana legalization, FairTax, balancing the budget, Second Amendment rights, civil rights, marriage equality, term limits, and abolishing the IRS, the Department of Education, the Federal Reserve, and many others.

    Johnson attended University of New Mexico, was married to the late Dee Simms from 1977-2005, is the father of two children Seah born in 1979 and Erik born in 1982, and got engaged to his life partner Kate Prusack in 2009.

    In 1976, Johnson founded Big J Enterprises, a one man handyman business, which he built it into a 1000 employee multi-million dollar company.

    Johnson served as the 29th Governor of New Mexico as a Republican, in a 2-to-1 Democratic state, from 1995 to 2003. Johnson was known for balancing budgets and vetoing more bills than all other governors combined.

    A lifelong health enthusiast and avid triathlete, Johnson climbed all seven of the Seven Summits including Mount Everest despite frostbitten toes. Johnson bikes extensively and abstains from all recreational drug use, caffeine, alcohol, and some sugar products.

    In 2009 and 2013, respectively, Johnson founded "Our America Initiative" and "Our America PAC," both focused on pro-liberty issues, as well as filing strategic lawsuits to allow general election debate access for third party candidates.

    Johnson ran for President in 2012 as a Republican, but left the Republican Party when he received the Libertarian Party nomination. Johnson appeared on 48 out of 50 state ballots in the general election and received 1.3 million votes, or 1% of the popular vote, which was more than all other minor candidates combined. This was the most successful result for a third party presidential candidacy since 2000. It was the best showing in the Libertarian Party's history by vote count.
  • Early Years

    Early Years


    Johnson was born on January 1, 1953, in Minot, North Dakota to Lorraine, who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Earl Johnson, a public school teacher. Johnson's mother was of Russian descent and his father was of half Danish and half Norwegian ancestry. Johnson moved with his family to New Mexico in his childhood.
  • 1970s



    Graduated from Sandia High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1971, where he was on the school track team.

    Johnson attended the University of New Mexico from 1971 to 1975 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in political science. While at UNM, Johnson joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.


    While in college, Johnson earned money as a door-to-door handyman. Johnson's success in that industry 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. Johnson's 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.


    Johnson married his wife, Denise "Dee" Simms (married 1977-2005).


    Johnson and Dee had a daughter, Seah in 1979.
  • 1980s

    Johnson spent much of the 1980s building his business.

    Over-burdened by his success with his company, Big J Enterprises, Johnson enrolled in a time management course at night school, which he credits with making him heavily goal-driven. Johnson eventually grew Big J into a multi-million dollar corporation with over 1,000 employees.


    Johnson and Dee had a son, Erik in 1982.
  • 1990s



    During Johnson's term in office, he competed in several triathlons, marathons and bike races. Johnson competed three times (1993, 1997, 1999) as a celebrity invitee at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, registering his best time for the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile marathon run in 1999 with 10 hours, 39 minutes, and 16 seconds.


    Johnson entered politics, with the intention of running for governor, but was advised by "Republican Elders" to run for the State Legislature instead. 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. Johnson's campaign slogan was "People before Politics". Johnson's platform emphasized tax cuts, job creation, state government spending growth restraint, and law and order. Johnson won the Republican nomination, defeating state legislator Richard P. Cheney, and subsequently won the general election, defeating the incumbent Democratic Governor Bruce King by 50% to 40%. Johnson was elected as a Republican 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." He vetoed 200 of 424 bills in his first six months in office—a national record of 47% of all legislation—and used the line-item veto on most remaining bills. In office, Johnson fulfilled his campaign promise to reduce the 10% annual growth of the state budget. 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.

    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.


    In 1998, Johnson ran for re-election as governor against Democratic Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. In his campaign, Johnson promised to continue the policies of his first term: improving schools; cutting state spending, taxes, and bureaucracy; and frequent use of his veto and line-item veto power. Fielding a strong Hispanic candidate in a 40% Hispanic state, the Democrats were expected to oust Johnson, but Johnson won by a 55%-to-45% margin: making him the first Governor of New Mexico to serve two successive four-year terms after term limits were expanded to two terms in 1991. Johnson made the promotion of a school voucher system a "hallmark issue" of his second term.


    In 1999, Johnson proposed the first statewide voucher system in America, which would have enrolled 100,000 students in its first year. That year, Johnson vetoed two budgets that failed to include a voucher program and a government shutdown was threatened, 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. In 1999, Johnson became one of the highest-ranking elected officials in the US to advocate the legalization of marijuana. 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." He suggested 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, as well as the Cato Institute and Rolling Stone.

    By the time Johnson sold his company, Big J Enterprises, in 1999, it was one of New Mexico's leading construction companies.
  • 2000s



    Commentator 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."

    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". 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."

    The Washington Times reported that when Johnson left office, "the size of state government had been substantially reduced and New Mexico was enjoying a large budget surplus."

    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."

    According to the Myrtle Beach Sun, Johnson "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".


    Johnson was term limited and could not run for a third consecutive term as governor in 2002.

    May 30, 2003

    Johnson once ran 100 miles in 30 consecutive hours in the Rocky Mountains. On May 30, 2003, he reached the summit of Mount Everest "despite toes blackened with frostbite." Johnson has climbed all seven of the Seven Summits: Mount Everest, Mount Elbrus, Mount McKinley, Mount Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua, Mount Vinson, and Carstensz Pyramid -- the tallest peaks in Asia, Europe, North America, Africa, South America, Antarctica, and Oceania respectively. Johnson completed the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, in which participants traverse a 26.2 mile course through the desert, many of them in combat boots and wearing 35-pound packs.

    October 12, 2005

    Johnson was involved in a near-fatal paragliding accident when his wing caught in a tree and he fell approximately 50 feet to the ground. Johnson suffered multiple bone fractures, including a burst fracture to his twelfth thoracic vertebra, a broken rib, and a broken knee; this accident left him 1.5 inches shorter. Johnson used medicinal marijuana for pain control from 2005 to 2008.


    In the 2008 presidential election campaign, Johnson endorsed Ron Paul for the Republican nomination, "because of his commitment to less government, greater liberty, and lasting prosperity for America."

    September 2, 2008

    Johnson spoke at Ron Paul's "Rally for the Republic."


    Johnson organized the Our American Initiative as a 501(c)(4) committee. 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".
  • 2010s



    Johnson joins the board of directors of Students For Liberty, a nonprofit libertarian organization.

    February 2011

    Johnson was a featured speaker at both the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the Republican Liberty Caucus. At CPAC, "the crowd liked him—even as he pushed some of his more controversial points." 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 candidate Sarah Palin).

    April 21, 2011

    Johnson announced via Twitter, "I am running for president."

    May 5, 2011

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

    June 3, 2011

    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). After the first exclusion, Johnson made a 43-minute video responding to each of the debate questions, which he posted on YouTube. The first exclusion, which was widely publicized, gave Johnson "a little bump" in name recognition and produced "a small uptick" in donations.

    September 22, 2011

    Fox News decided that because Johnson polled at least 2% in five recent polls, he could participate in a September 22 debate in Florida, which it co-hosted with the Florida Republican Party (the party objected to Johnson's inclusion). 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." Entertainment Weekly opined that Johnson had won the debate.

    December 28, 2011

    Johnson formally withdrew his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, and declared his candidacy for the 2012 presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    May 5, 2012

    At the 2012 Libertarian National Convention, Johnson received the Libertarian Party's official nomination for president in the 2012 election, by a vote of 419 votes to 152 votes for second-place candidate R. Lee Wrights.

    June 2, 2012

    Johnson stated that his goal was to win at least 5 percent of the vote, as winning 5 percent would allow Libertarian Party candidates equal ballot access and federal funding during the next election cycle. In a national Gallup poll of likely registered voters conducted June 7 through June 10, 2012, Johnson took 3% of the vote.

    July 13, 2012

    A Zogby poll released July 13, 2012, revealed Johnson took 5.3% of likely voters.

    August 1, 2012

    Johnson's first book, Seven Principles of Good Government, was published.

    September 2012

    Johnson spent the early months of his campaign making media appearances on television programs such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld. Johnson embarked on a three-week tour of college campuses throughout the US.

    September 6, 2012

    In a national Gallup poll of likely registered voters conducted September 6 through September 9, 2012, showed Johnson taking 1%.

    September 23, 2012

    A Zogby poll released September 23, 2012, showed Johnson taking 2% of likely voters.

    October 23, 2012

    Johnson participated in a third party debate that was aired on C-SPAN, RT America, and Al Jazeera English. A post-debate online election allowed people to choose two candidates from the debate they thought had won to face each other head to head in a run-off debate. Johnson and Jill Stein won the poll.

    November 5, 2012

    Johnson and Jill Stein debated again in Washington, D.C.

    November 6, 2012

    The final results showed Johnson polling nearly 1.3 million votes and 1.0% of the popular vote. This established a Libertarian Party record for total votes won in a presidential election and the second-highest Libertarian percentage ever, behind Ed Clark's 1.1% in 1980. Despite falling short of his stated goal of 5%, Johnson stated, "Ours is a mission accomplished". In regards to a future presidential bid, he said "it is too soon to be talking about 2016".

    June 2013

    Since the 2012 elections, Johnson has continued to criticize the Obama administration on various issues. In an article for The Guardian, Johnson called on United States Attorney General Eric Holder to let individual states legalize marijuana. In a Google Hangout hosted by Johnson in June 2013, he criticized the US government's lack of transparency and due process in regards to the NSA's domestic surveillance programs. He also said that he would not discount running as a Republican again in the future.

    December 2013

    In December 2013, Johnson announced the founding of his own Super PAC, Our America PAC. The Super PAC is intended to support libertarian-minded causes. “From the realities of government-run healthcare setting in to the continuing disclosures of the breadth of NSA’s domestic spying, more Americans than ever are ready to take a serious look at candidates who offer real alternatives to business-as-usual,” the release announcing the PAC said.

    March 2014

    Johnson was appointed to the board of Medican Enterprises, a bio-pharmaceutical company focused on the medical marijuana industry.

    April 2014

    In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session, Johnson stated that he hopes to run for president again in 2016. On whether he would run as a Libertarian or a Republican, he stated that "I would love running as a Libertarian because I would have the least amount of explaining to do."

    July 2014

    In July 2014 Johnson was named president and CEO of Cannabis Sativa Inc., a Nevada-based company that aims primarily to sell medical cannabis products in states where medicinal and/or recreational cannabis is legal.

Connect To Johnson


Speeches, Interviews, Behind The Scenes

  • Gary Johnson: We're Suing The Presidential Debate Comission To Be Included In 2016 Debates

  • Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson: How the Libertarian Party can be Viable

Gary Johnson 2016

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