INTERVIEW: Gary Johnson for U.S. Senate in 2018?

Created: 24 July, 2017
Updated: 21 November, 2022
6 min read

In a recent interview for IVN, Gary Johnson consultant Ron Nielson said Johnson "would be a fantastic senator" if he chose to run in 2018 against New Mexico's Democratic junior senator, Martin Heinrich.

When pressed on whether Johnson would consider making a bid for the U.S. Senate next year, Nielson had no comment, saying:

"Well you’d have to ask Gary. I have no idea. No doubt that Gary would be a fantastic senator. He would do an amazing job and be great at that task. I have no idea if that would be of interest to him." - Ron Nielson

Ron Nielson, a public opinion research consultant from Salt Lake City, Utah, was Gary Johnson's campaign manager, and the chief architect of his two successful bids for governor in New Mexico in 1994 and 1998. He also helped Johnson garner a historic, record-high voter turnout for a Libertarian Party presidential candidate in the party's 45-year history.

Gary Johnson for Senate 2018?

In the Santa Fe New Mexican, Steve Terrell recently observed:

"There are less than 11 months and two weeks until the 2018 New Mexico primary. And only about seven...months until filing day for statewide candidates. Is anyone panicking yet?"


"Actually, the Democratic side of the primary is starting to shape up...Indeed, where are the 2018 Republicans?"

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With Senator Martin Heinrich up for re-election for the first time after being elected in 2012, and only one Republican Senate candidate so far -- a political newcomer -- anyone familiar with New Mexico state politics might wonder how Gary Johnson would do against Heinrich.

Another question would be whether Johnson would run on the Libertarian Party's ticket as he did for president, or with the Republican Party, which he helped take the governor's office twice in a two-to-one Democratic state, under a popular Democratic president, by very comfortable margins.

The 2012 New Mexico Senate Race

I asked Gary Johnson in 2011 on a blogger's conference call, "Why not run for the open Senate seat in your state instead of for president?" I had no idea that four years later Gary Johnson would usher in an unprecedented expansion in the Libertarian Party's viability.

His answer, so characteristic of Gary Johnson's attitude toward government that it made Nielson laugh when I told him during our recent talk, was:

"I'm not interested in being one of a hundred shouldering up to the government trough asking for more federal money, and more federal programs, and more regulations." - Gary Johnson

But that was in 2011.

In the years since then, Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have shown the power just one of a hundred can have in the U.S. Senate chambers, especially when it comes to holding down the brakes on a massive, radical federal overhaul that is barreling toward the president's desk without due consideration or deliberation.

The Power of The Filibuster

Rand Paul became a media darling and national sensation in 2013 when he went on a 13-hour filibuster to stall a confirmation vote on President Barack Obama's nominee to run the CIA, and draw attention to the Obama administration's refusal to clarify its drone policy and explicitly rule out using drones to attack American citizens on U.S. soil.

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He would repeat the performance in 2015, filibustering for 11 hours against the Patriot Act renewal bill, and calling for an end to the National Security Agency's mass surveillance of U.S. citizens without a specific warrant issued by a judge naming the person or place to be searched as required in the United States Constitution.

The 2018 Senate Race

If Gary Johnson were to run for Senate in 2018, his national name recognition and enthusiastic base of national support (4.5 million people across the United States voted for him to be president in November) would assure him a massive war chest for campaign operations and advertising in a New Mexico Senate race.

His high name recognition and approval rating as a popular two-term governor in New Mexico would give him a great local advantage as well. He won his last statewide race in New Mexico by 9 percentage points. Martin Heinrich won his by less than 6 points that he had to fight hard for, and with far less money than Johnson would have to spend.

Republican candidates winning one special election after another in 2017 (even the Republican candidate body slamming a reporter the night before the election can't seem to get a Democrat elected this year) might portend a tough midterm for Democrats in 2018.

If Gary Johnson were to pull off a U.S. Senate win for the Libertarian Party in his home state, he would make history for third party candidacies in the United States. He would also gain access to a vast amount of earned media air time as a senator to talk about the problems in Washington that other politicians won't talk about, and that a growing number of voters are eager to hear.

Our America Initiative

In the meantime, the only thing that's sure is that Gary Johnson will be returning to the helm of his political non-profit, Our America Initiative, to mobilize "the largest grassroots army of liberty activists in the nation."

In regards to Our America Initiative, I asked Mr. Nielson how the legal action in federal court against the Commission on Presidential Debates is going. He said:

"We’re optimistic and we’re pushing forward. Right now it’s in the appeals process. Like most legal actions it’s dragging on. We’re confident and we feel positive about the eventual outcome. The goal is to change the dynamic of how these debates are held. The fight is to make sure other voices can be heard." - Ron Nielson

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Our America Initiative's Liberty Tour 2016 was a big success for the organization. I asked when Liberty 2017 would be, and Nielson said:

"We’ll be doing a national tour like we did last year promoting liberty, but we’ll be offering training and training certification on general activism, how to become active in politics and promote the liberty agenda, and how to organize."

The lawsuit against the Commission on Presidential Debates for excluding third party candidates as well as the annual Liberty Tour have been OAI's two major projects over the last year. When I asked if there was anything else coming down the pipeline, I was surprised to hear Nielson say:

"We’re going to be announcing several other big projects here in the next month or two. And we have a lot of state projects, and different local activists are starting to put together state projects.

"We just invite everyone who believes in liberty to join in. Anyone in any party, or independents, or Ron Paul supporters- people who just believe in liberty, that’s who we want to bring into this group."

Visit Our America Initiative for more information.

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