An open letter to Gary Johnson, tenacious triathlete, maverick mountain climber, puzzled presidential contender and atypical advocate of legalizing drugs.
Your nickname was “Governor No,” but you should say yes to another political comeback.
Even though you ran for president and the U.S. Senate as a Libertarian, you were a two-term Republican governor before that.
The state Republican Party is now in shambles. It can’t save itself from irrelevancy. Your return might keep a two-party system alive in New Mexico.
If Republican regulars designed an honest recruiting poster, similar to Uncle Sam’s, you would be listed as the gubernatorial candidate they need to launch a turnaround.
The rest of the state would also benefit if you saw your way clear to run for governor again. Tough competition can force every politician to be more accountable.
Under New Mexico’s Republican chairman, Amarillo Steve Pearce, the GOP has declined so much it can’t compete in statewide elections.
Amarillo Steve’s operation is limited by geography. Republicans can win elections in the southern section of the state and a couple of other pockets. They are on a losing skid in Albuquerque, key to victory in any statewide election.
Republicans have six little-known candidates for governor. None would be gutsy enough to do what you have already done.
You looked voters in the eye and told them former President Donald Trump is a wimp. Actually, you used a word more crude than wimp, but this is a family newspaper.
Amarillo Steve has ignored how most New Mexicans regard the ousted president. Pearce continued genuflecting to Trump after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“Our president forever,” Pearce gushed on Twitter before censoring his own comment.
He’s never understood that a Trump sycophant won’t be elected governor of New Mexico. Trump lost the state twice by decisive margins.
Trump likes to demonize immigrants for political gain. It’s part of his George Wallace imitation, what the old newspaper reporters called the politics of rage. Find a scapegoat and blame it for all the world’s ills.
Governor No, you were a contrarian on many issues, favoring strict background checks for prospective immigrants but no quotas for entry.
You recognized immigrants help the economy, something many New Mexico politicians acknowledge only during harvest season.
All of this means you would have a difficult time with many Republicans if you reentered politics. And Democrats would try to knock you down early. They know you would be more dangerous in the general election than the rest of the Republican field.
Like anyone else, you have flaws and foibles the opposition can seize on.
It’s been almost 19 years since you left New Mexico’s top office. You might have lost 10 mph off your fastball. You might even have lost your veto pen. Rejecting legislation, especially proposals for more spending, led to your colorful nickname of Governor No.
All the vetoes heightened your profile in New Mexico. What turned you into a national figure was more controversial. Your advocacy for legalizing drugs brought you a lot of publicity.
It was the reason you became the subject of an interview in Playboy magazine. You called America’s war on drugs a failure, enabling you to compete for attention with Miss January.
Now that recreational cannabis has been legalized in New Mexico, 16 other states and the District of Columbia, your ideas might seem less radical.
Fighting drugs by shrinking demand is smart strategy. Concentrating on the supply side doesn’t work. As you’ve said, if there’s a market for illicit drugs, dealers will always find a way to exploit it.
You’re still vulnerable to attack on the drug war. So far, though, I haven’t seen any candidate show real leadership in reducing demand for recreational narcotics. You might be the one who would deliver.
Governor, you would also have to prepare better than you did during your 2016 presidential campaign. Your bewilderment about Aleppo made more headlines than your thoughtful plan to cut billions from the defense budget.
Only Bruce King, New Mexico’s longest-serving governor with three four-year terms, returned to power decade after decade. You ended King’s career by defeating him in the 1994 election.
You were in your 40s then, about to become Governor No. You’re only 68 today, and few people are as fit as you.
Running for governor again after a 20-year layoff would turn you into one of the great political stories of the year.
You could rebuild a political party while elevating campaign discourse.
Who knows? You might even win.
Governor, consider it one more mountain to climb before the sun goes down.
Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-986-3080.