Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who has been excluded from most Republican presidential debates and has barely registered in polls of the race, said he instead will seek the Libertarian nomination for the White House.
“I am a Libertarian -- that is, someone who is fiscally very conservative but holds freedom-based positions on the issues that govern our personal behavior,” Johnson, 58, said in a statement as he announced his decision at the New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe. “This election is about issues larger than party or personal ambition. The future of our country is at stake. I believe this election needs a true libertarian voice.”
The Libertarian nominee will be selected in May at the party’s convention. Its 2008 nominee, former Republican U.S. Representative Bob Barr of Georgia, garnered 523,715 votes, 0.4 percent of the total cast, Federal Election Commission reports show.
U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who is seeking the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, ran as the Libertarian nominee in 1988. He got 432,179 votes, 0.5 percent of the total, according to the FEC.
“All of the Republican Party presidential candidates -- except for Ron Paul -- have a track record of voting for higher levels of government spending,” Carla Howell, executive director of the Libertarian Party, said in a statement. “Should one of the non-Paul candidates prevail, then the Libertarian Party will be our only means to restore fiscal sanity.”
After participating in the Republican campaign’s opening debate on May 5 in Greenville, South Carolina, Johnson hasn’t been part of most of the face-offs since then. In an e-mail to supporters, Johnson complained about the exclusion.
“Frankly, I have been deeply disappointed by the treatment I received in the Republican nomination process,” he said.
He was booed by the audience during the first debate when, in line with his libertarian philosophy, he said he supports abortion rights. “I support a woman’s right to choose up until viability of the fetus,” he said, adding that he opposes public money being used to pay for abortions.
Johnson didn’t place in a Dec. 16-18 CNN poll or a Dec. 15-18 Washington Post-ABC News survey of the Republican candidates. He had raised $416,431 for his campaign through Sept. 30.
Running as a Republican, he was elected New Mexico’s governor in 1994 and won a second term in 1998.