"A six-lane highway down the middle" - A conversation with Gary Johnson

While much of the focus during the 2016 presidential campaign has been on the nominees of the two major political parties — Democratic nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump — a third-party ticket for the White House was in Seattle this weekend to make its case as a viable alternative.

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld — one-time GOP governors in the “blue states” of New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively — will be on the ballot in all 50 states as the Libertarian Party ticket for president and vice president.

The duo met with the press before hosting a rally at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel on Saturday afternoon, in which Weld emphasized their executive experience and decried Trump’s border wall and deportation plans as “the worst he has ever heard,” while Johnson referred to his campaign as the “six-lane highway down the middle,” as opposed to either front-runner creating more polarity in Washington D.C.

We sat down with Gov. Johnson one-on-one after the roundtable to get his perspective on several local issues.


Q: Seattle is currently grappling with a homelessness crisis. What do you see as the federal government’s role in addressing that issue?

Johnson: The federal government’s role … it really is a state’s role. It’s a state’s role, it’s a community’s role. A real Libertarian solution when it comes to homelessness, I think, it’s being able to design and build affordable housing without regard to regulations and rules that add so much to cost and really aren’t so much about health and safety, but zoning. And if the city of Seattle were to embark on an affordable housing model project, I’m sure they’ve got 20 acres somewhere that if you brought together architects and engineers could design 600 sq. ft. housing units … A bed, a place to cook, a commode, a shower, a desk. That would be some really affordable housing.


Q: What did you do as governor of New Mexico to create affordable housing in your state?

Johnson: You know, it really wasn’t an issue. It just wasn’t an issue.


Q: Sen. Bernie Sanders won the state’s Democratic caucus handily back in March (Sanders took 73 percent of the statewide delegate count, 67 percent in King County). How do you appeal to those voters, and how do you align with his views?

Johnson: Certainly when it comes to a woman’s right to choose. Marriage equality. Legalizing marijuana. Crony capitalism is alive and well. Let’s stop dropping bombs. Hey, we’re simpatico.

Economically? I do think that government can create equal opportunity. If Bernie Sanders supporters are looking for equal opportunity, I’m your guy. Coupled with all those other things I said.


Q: On the other side of the aisle, there’s a lot of disaffected Republicans in this state running for statewide office that have disavowed Donald Trump (including GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant, and U.S. Senate challenger Chris Vance). How do you reach out to those Republicans?

Johnson: Well, Bill Weld and myself both are proven small government guys. I mean, neither of us raised taxes one penny over the terms that we both served, and we were socially inclusive to go along with that, which I think most Republicans are. I think most Republicans could care less what you do socially, as long as you don’t force it on me. I think that’s most Republicans. I think that Donald Trump is the epitome of a lot of things that are wrong in this country, starting with immigration. We should embrace immigration. Deporting 11 million undocumented workers has a basis in untruth and mis-fact. Building a fence across the border is just nuts. Applying a 35 percent tariff to imported goods when currently that tariff averages 1.4 percent, who’s going to pay for that? Well, you and I are going to pay for that.


Q: As you mentioned, this is a state that legalized marijuana (in 2012). What do you think was learned through that process here that could be applied nationally as part of your platform?

Johnson: Well, being very familiar with what has happened in Washington — and by the way, I applaud Washington State for legalizing marijuana — but I think that what has happened in Washington State is that too many taxes have been applied to it so that the black market is still the market that most people who’ve used it for forever still utilize the black market in lieu of legal marijuana. So I know that Washington State has taxed the product far too many times before it gets to the end user.


Q: You are a supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). How did you come to that decision when the other candidates running are against it?

Johnson: A pledge running for president is that I’m going to sign on to things that make things better, and in this case I do believe that the TPP makes things better. I do believe the TPP creates more jobs, in this case protecting intellectual property. In the case of Washington State, where you are exporting more goods than any other state in the country, TPP should bode very well for Washington State.


For more information on Johnson’s campaign, visit www.johnsonweld.com.