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16 Things to Know About... Gary Johnson

By Jenna Goff
Washington Week Fellow

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the most unpopular presidential nominees in history. But voters who don’t like them have a choice: Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson is currently lingering at around 8.8 percent of the popular vote, about 6 percent short of the 15 percent he would need to participate in the presidential debates. As the general election heats up, here’s what you need to know about the two-term Republican governor of New Mexico and triathlete:

  1. Johnson served two terms as governor of New Mexico, from 1995 to 2003, as a Republican.
  2. As governor, Johnson was known for his conservative stances on a variety of issues. He slashed income tax rates, slowed the growth of government, and vetoed more than 700 bills passed by a Democratic legislature. His approval rating dropped however, when he called for the full legalization of marijuana in 1999.
  3. As a Libertarian, Johnson believes in smaller government when it comes to economic and social issues. His most well-known policy proposals include: legalizing marijuana, raising the retirement age for Social Security, abolishing the IRS, and shrinking the military.
  4. Johnson first ran for President in 2012. He started out as a Republican candidate but switched to the Libertarian Party in December of 2011 after polls showed him trailing in the GOP. He later drew in one percent of the popular vote as the Libertarian Party’s 2012 presidential nominee with 1.27 million votes - the highest in the party’s history.
  5. Johnson has climbed the tallest mountains on all seven continents, including Everest. He was healing from a broken leg when he ascended Mount Everest, and he says his toes have never healed from the frostbite he incurred on the mountain.
  6. Johnson has also finished 75 triathlons. His best Ironman time (which includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle ride, and a marathon) was 10 hours and 38 minutes, in 2001.
  7. His running mate is former Republican Gov. Bill Weld of Massachusetts. The ticket is one of the most mainstream since the Libertarian Party was founded in 1971. It is also the first time two governors have been on a presidential ticket since 1948.
  8. Johnson has long said that he doesn’t do negative campaigning. He has, however, referred to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the “two most polarizing political candidates” and spoken out publicly against Trump and his running mate Mike Pence.
  9. If elected President, Johnson would be the first unmarried president since 1885, when Grover Cleveland took office. He is, however, currently engaged to realtor Kate Prusack.
  10. Johnson believes that most Americans are secretly libertarian, or that they are fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
  11. He first started to refer to himself as a libertarian at the age of 18 when he read a book - he’s since forgotten the title - about what it means to be libertarian.
  12. Johnson founded a construction company, Big J Enterprises, when he was a senior at the University of New Mexico in 1975. In 1986, the company became the facilities contractor for Intel in New Mexico. Johnson was successful enough that he was able to self-finance his first gubernatorial campaign and sold Big J for $5 million in 1999.
  13. Johnson has an estimated net worth between $3 million and $10.5 million.
  14. Johnson was born in 1953 in Minot, North Dakota, to a tire salesman-turned-teacher and a mother who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His family moved to New Mexico when he was 13.
  15. He currently lives in a Taos, New Mexico home he built himself.
  16. If Johnson polls at least 15 percent of votes, as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, he will join Trump and Clinton in the presidential debates this fall.

Photo via Flickr / Gage Skidmore