Libertarian Senate candidate Gary Johnson visited The Daily Times on Friday. Farmington Daily Times

Ex-gov Gary Johnson seeking to replace Martin Heinrich


FARMINGTON — Libertarian Gary Johnson is a relative newcomer to the U.S. Senate race against Democratic incumbent Martin Heinrich and Republican challenger Mick Rich, but his entrance into the race garnered national attention in August when the former New Mexico governor replaced Aubrey Dunn on the ballot.

While visiting The Daily Times on Friday, Johnson said before he entered the race, it looked like Heinrich had a clear path to victory.

If he wins, Johnson anticipates he could be one of the most powerful members of the Senate. He explained that as the only third-party member of the Senate — the two current independent members, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont both caucus with the Democrats — he could be a powerful swing vote for both the Democrats and Republicans.

Johnson hopes to serve on budget committee if elected

Johnson hopes to use that anticipated leverage to earn a place on the Budget Committee, where he intends to help push through some major budget cuts.

Johnson said his pledge to voters is that he will submit a balanced budget to Congress every year.

That involves Medicare and Medicaid reform, Social Security reform, and cutting military spending.

Johnson said Social Security reform is not part of balancing a budget but needs to be done because the program will become insolvent in 2034.

Johnson ran for president in 2012, 2016

Johnson served as governor from 1995 until 2003 as a Republican. He also has mounted two unsuccessful bids for the presidency, running in 2012 and 2016 as the Libertarian nominee.

While both those presidential bids were unsuccessful, they did help the Libertarian Party earn major-party status in New Mexico, which made it easier for Libertarian candidates to get on the ballot here.

Johnson anticipates thousands of Libertarian candidates will emerge nationwide in future elections if he is elected.

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He said he agrees with President Trump’s stance on reducing taxes, and getting rid of rules and regulations. However, he disagrees with the president’s approach on immigration, free trade, subsidies and tariffs.

"I'll be glad to give him kudos if he deserves them, and I'll be glad to call him out if he needs calling out," Johnson said.

Johnson highlights accomplishments

Johnson listed several of his gubernatorial accomplishments, including:

  • Building 500 miles of four-lane highway, including U.S. Highway 550 between Albuquerque and Farmington
  • Reforming Medicaid in New Mexico
  • Privatizing some of the prisons
  • Increasing funding for education
  • Calling for the legalization of cannabis

"For me, politics has always been about pushing the limits," Johnson said. "I think I'm a disrupter."

He said he employs that term in a good way, one that promotes better goods and services for lower prices.

Johnson outlines positions on coal, checkerboard lands and methane emissions

Potential closure of coal-fired power plants: The San Juan Generating Station likely will close in 2022 as the Public Service Company of New Mexico moves away from coal-fired generation. Johnson described the coal industry as an example of the free market at work. He said fracking made natural gas more affordable, and now coal cannot compete with natural gas. Johnson said the only way to keep the coal industry alive is through subsidies, which he does not support.

Checkerboard patterns making public land inaccessible: In parts of the state, public and private land forms a "checkerboard"-like pattern. That can mean large swaths of inaccessible public lands. According to a report by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, 554,000 acres of public lands in New Mexico are inaccessible because they are surrounded by private lands and have no access roads. Johnson said he supports selling off public land that is surrounded by private land.

Methane emissions caused through venting and flaring: In 2016, a methane hot spot was discovered over the Four Corners region. Since then, Heinrich has supported regulations targeting methane emissions from venting and flaring. Methane is considered a greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming. Johnson said the industry recognizes valuable products are being flared off, and he anticipates the free market will address the emissions through installation of technology like micro-turbines that will turn the methane into electricity.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

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