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Friday, April 22, 2011

Former NM gov. launches run for White House at NH Statehouse

CONCORD – Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson began his 2012 Republican campaign for President on Thursday, vowing to cut 43 cents of every dollar in federal spending, give illegal aliens a grace period to find jobs and legalize marijuana.

Johnson, 58, said his unique brand of fiscally conservative and socially moderate-to-liberal views should appeal to voters in a country wracked with federal debt.

“I am outraged over the fact this country is bankrupt. How did we get here?’’ Johnson declared in making official his campaign in a news conference in front of the Statehouse.

Likely competing against three multimillionaires in a crowded, GOP primary, Johnson insisted an aggressive website would get him the campaign cash he needs to be competitive.

The Minot, N.D., native said he chose to start campaigning here because a good showing in the first-in-the-nation primary state is critical to survival.

“New Hampshire is really key in this whole process for me. You can go from obscurity to prominence with a good showing in New Hampshire,” Johnson said.

Over the past 18 months, Johnson has visited 34 states with a main focus on the nation’s finances through his OUR America Initiative that promoted what he called “fiscal responsibility, civil liberties and rational public policy.”

On Thursday, he stood in front of a giant-sized mural that read next to his picture, “When Gary Johnson goes to Washington, Everybody goes.”

“I wouldn’t be here right now if what I was saying was being said,” Johnson said.

“It’s not being said. I happen to think I speak on behalf of a majority of Republicans.”

If elected, Johnson would slash and block grant spending for states to experiment in delivering Medicare and Medicaid differently, raise the retirement age or means test Social Security and pare defense spending by ending what he called a “nation building” foreign policy.

“We should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow,” Johnson said.

The military intervention in Libya was wrong from A to Z, Johnson continued.

“Where is it in the Constitution that if we don’t like a foreign leader, we should go in and remove that foreign leader?” Johnson asked.

He lampooned as miniscule the recent federal cuts by Congress and President Barack Obama.

“I always thought there would be a day of reckoning with regards to the spending, and that day of reckoning is here,” Johnson said.

Eliminating the corporate income tax would create millions of jobs here that have been going overseas, the candidate continued.

Congress should repeal Obama’s national health care law because it’s unaffordable, Johnson charged, along with a prescription drug benefit for seniors that former President George W. Bush championed

“Both parties can share in where we have gotten to right now,” Johnson said. “I think this country is on the brink of a collapse.”

As governor from 1995-2003, Johnson used his veto pen 750 times while in office claiming to exercise it more than all other governors combined.

In 1999, Johnson became one of highest ranking officials in the country to advocate decriminalization of marijuana comparing the war on drugs to the war against alcohol prohibition.

An extreme athlete, Johnson has done many triathlons, Iron Man competitions, marathons and bicycle races.

Johnson broke his veterbrae in a near fatal paragliding accident in 2005 and said for the next three years he used marijuana for pain control.

If marijuana is legal, violence along the US-Mexican border would drop 75 percent, Johnson predicted.

“If we can’t connect the dots between violence and prohibition now, I don’t know if we will ever be able to,” Johnson said.

A border fence to deter illegal immigration is a waste of money, Johnson continued, and getting work visas for aliens must be made easier.

“There needs to be a grace period when the 11 million people who are here illegally can get a work visa,” Johnson said.

This candidacy is as unconventional as when Johnson who had never run for anything went on to become a Republican running what was a Democratically leaning New Mexico until he had to leave because of term limits.

Johnson’s work experience had similar humble beginnings.

In 1976, he started a door-to-door handyman business to pay his way through college. Big J Enterprises, grew to a company with 1,000 employees before Johnson sold it in 1999.

Johnson spoke and answered without notes Thursday while the campaign issued a statement that pressed his everyman quality.

“It’s time to put one of our own in the White House,” Johnson said in the prepared remarks. “I have the qualifications, the ability and the know-how to do the job. I also have the track record. I’ll do what I say I’ll do.

“I look at the rest of the field running for president and that song by The Who comes to mind. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss. You know the one. We won’t get fooled again.”

Kevin Landrigan can be reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com.