Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson: Gary L. Fincher looks back at his own personal experience with the man and the governor and answers the question, “But can he be trusted?”
 
In the Fall of 1998, Kay and I were managing a campaign for Maurice McDonald, of Santa Fe, Libertarian candidate for New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands.  During that campaign, Kay, as chief fundraiser, raised approximately $20,000, which remains the benchmark for third party campaigns in that state.  I was McDonald’s campaign manager.
 
 
 
In the course of culling through donor bases, it became apparent to Kay and me that there were two separate lists of Libertarian Party members who lived in New Mexico.  One, a list of those who were members of the state party (with perhaps dual membership in the national party); and two, a list of those who were solely members of the national party.  National LP office manager Nick Dunbar sent to us in Santa Fe the latter list from LPHQ in Washington.
 
On the list, I spied an eerily familiar name – that of Gary Johnson.  The sitting governor of the state we were campaigning in happened to bear the name Gary Johnson.  I called Kay over and she took a look at the name on the list; we both scratched our heads.  Could they be one and the same?  The Gary Johnson on the list was a Libertarian Party member from 1993 until 1994, when it lapsed.  But Governor Gary Johnson ran and won as a Republican in 1994.  Mystery became solved when our candidate, Maurice McDonald, looked at the list and confirmed – by virtue of the tag that appeared on the list “Big J Enterprises”, Governor Johnson’s business – that this former LP member was indeed Gary Johnson.  At that moment in history, only 4 people in the world coherently knew that the sitting governor of New Mexico was once a Libertarian Party member (and had signed a pledge not to believe in or advocate violating libertarian principles)!
 
We basically sat on this information for a handful of years.  More on it in a moment.  But first this.
 
On election night, as Kay and I stood in line to cast our vote for the candidate we’d been parading around and showcasing for 3 months, we were arrested, ambush-style, by Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputies, and held just long enough for the polls to close, thus ensuring our loss of voting franchise.  The reason:  we went to vote wearing clothing that bore Libertarian Party ensignias.  The charges: electioneering and disorderly conduct.  In actuality, the first charge was a misapplication, given that the language of the law prohibited “distributing literature” and “carrying signs” – not to mention that fact that Kay actually complied with poll officials’ “order” to cover her LP logo.  The second charge, that of disorderly conduct, was trumped up, due to the fact that it was actually the multitude of officials, and not we, that were creating a scene.
 
 
 
I was acquitted on disorderly conduct, but convicted on electioneering (my judge actually implied that he’d like to see a higher court look at it and perhaps overturn him), while Kay was convicted on both charges.  (Ironic, given that she actually was complying with poll officials’ desires, while I was unwilling to take my t-shirt off as asked.)
 
Fast forward to April, 2002.  Kay and I were working as petition circulators for the three statewide candidates in Massachusetts when we got word that Johnson – who had since become the only sitting governor to come out for pot legalization and was making the speaking circuit – was to be the keynote speaker at the Massachusetts Libertarian Convention in Woburn.  When we heard this, Kay and I looked at one another as if to say, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”  The answer, of course, was yes, as we followed through with our intent to attend the convention, where we knew Johnson would be extremely accessible – something he certainly wasn’t while all of us were in New Mexico and we were fighting those ridiculous criminal charges.
 
The February, 1999, newspaper clipping from the Hobbs (NM) Sun that editorialized in Kay’s and my favor entitled “Only in NM Can You Get Arrested For Voting” I had blown-up large and dark and strolled up to Governor Johnson at the pre-convention social.
 
 
“Governor Johnson, are you aware of this story?”,  while handing him the clipping. 
 
Johnson’s eyes enlarged and widened as they came to rest on the clipping prominately displaying the state he governed over 2,000 miles away.  “No.  No, I wasn’t aware of this.”
 
At that point, I launch into a brief explanation of what happened that election night (when Johnson won his second term as governor) over 3 years prior.
 
Johnson’s reaction was to say “Really?!?  They arrested you for that?!?”  (Keep in mind that Johnson was at the top of the chain-of-command, if you will, of the state that prosecuted us, both then and now [“now” meaning April 2002]).  That display of incredulity was immediately followed with, “You mean that if I went to vote wearing a ‘Gary Johnson for Governor’ t-shirt they’d arrest me?” 
 
(Must have been somewhat of a rhetorical question, as who seriously thinks deputies would have similarly arrested the sitting governor?  But it certainly forged a what’s-wrong-with-this-picture impression in my mind, as it should you, who’s reading this.
 
Let’s see if we have this straight:  here we have a governor who not only is current as governor of the state that prosecuted my wife and me for wearing a certain type of clothing, but who was also governor at the time we were arrested, charged, prosecuted and convicted, AND was basically standing there telling us that he himself might have stepped in the same pile of dogshit!  Un-friggin-Real.
 
Kay doesn’t beat around the bush: she refuses to allow Johnson any margin for second-guessing himself, and pipes right up, “Will you pardon us?”  (Well aware that Johnson had listed on his website among his Seven Keys to Success “Always Keep Your Word”)
 
Johnson doesn’t miss a beat, enthusiastically trumpeting, “Yeah, I’ll pardon you!”
 
My immediate concern at this point is to make sure Johnson does “keep his word”, by pressing him on our enjoying access to him as we pursue the pardon matter once he returns to New Mexico.  I remind Johnson that we’ve not had much success to-date in reaching him or his office over this matter, despite the fact that we’ve written letters.  I was realistic enough to know that there exists buffers between the public and a sitting governor, and I wanted to glean from Johnson how he’d dismantle some of those buffers just enough to allow us to communicate with him long enough to gain our promised pardon.  Johnson made every reassurance to us that he’d make himself accessible to us, and actually allow us to talk to him directly, via his personal counsel (I forgot the man’s last name, but the first name was “Bobby”).  Johnson said that it should be “no problem” to reach him once he returned to New Mexico, and that’s how the conversation was left.
 
However, listing keeping your word as a website tenet is apparently a lot easier than actually keeping your word, as Johnson’s “word” of April, 2002, failed him, and failed us, as no pardon was to come down the pike.  It wasn’t bad enough that Johnson’s personal counsel rebuffed us when we pressed to communicate, but to hear one New Mexico state official that I’d reached at one point disgustingly utter, “We’re here to be the layer that protects the governor from having to talk to the public” – it was really too much.  Even when I reminded her that Johnson had actually stated without ambiguity that he’d talk to us directly, she remained unyielding.  When I went ahead and mentioned the matter of the pardon to her, and gave a synopsis of our ordeal, she tried to make us abandon our effort by saying, “Well, according to the governor’s own policies, you don’t qualify”.  Of course, I had to remind her that that was irrelevant, since he heard the story firsthand and promised the pardon anyway, i.e., he’d overridden his “own policy” by making the pledge to us.
 
What that state minion ended up doing was offering to send us two “pardon request forms”.  We diligently filled them out and sent them in, along with an accompanying letter to Governor Johnson.
 
 
What we got in response – many months later at which time Kay was terminally ill – were form letters from the state, but not from Governor Johnson, stating that the matter will be “looked into” and we were warned that that process may well take a “very long time”.  The thought going through my mind as I read the notice and as my wife lay on her deathbed was, “well, some of us don’t have a lot of time.”
 
Now, 9 years later, there is no pardon, nor any further word from the state of New Mexico.  Instead of keeping his word, Johnson – who left office in 2003 – apparently is only interested in issuing more promises (that he also can’t keep?) as he actively runs for the Republican presidential nomination.
 
By the way…remember earlier in this story where we confirmed that Governor Gary Johnson was a Libertarian Party member for one year, 1993-1994?  At that same April, 2002, Massachusetts state convention, I singlehandedly made Johnson admit it publicly that he is a former LP pledge-signer.  During the Q & A session after Johnson’s keynote speech at the dinner banquet, I stood up to ask Johnson a question.  “Governor Johnson,” I began, “National Libertarian Party records show that your LP membership lapsed in 1994.  My question to you then is, will you renew your Libertarian Party membership today?”  Of course, the politician that he is, that convention never got a straight answer on that question.  But I can say with near-certainty that it was the first time Johnson ever publicly admitted to having once been a dues-paying Libertarian Party member.  Thus he shares that distinction with another Republican presidential hopeful – Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
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