August 20, 2016

Johnson gets a New Mexico welcome at ABQ rally

Andy Lyman

Gary Johnson poses for a picture during a lowrider event

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson stopped on his way into a rally at the Albuquerque Convention Center to see the workings of a lowrider car with hydraulics Saturday afternoon.

After he watched with awe, the most logical thing happened—the presidential candidate sat in the car as the front end jumped seven feet off the ground and lurched forward. The surrounding crowd cheered as Johnson pressed against the ceiling of the car.

Later, as he walked into a press conference, Johnson told NM Political Report he enjoyed himself but was still feeling the effects.

“My teeth are still chattering,” Johnson said.

Bill Weld, a former Massachusetts governor and Johnson’s running mate, felt it too.

“My back hurt just looking at Gary up there,” Weld told reporters.

Johnson made his first official campaign appearance in New Mexico since his nomination by the Libertarian Party, where he made a clear attempt to reach out to Latino voters in the state.

Johnson arrived with Weld and went directly to a car club rally, complete with a row of extravagant lowriders. The group of enthusiasts organized an event to show support for Johnson from the lowrider community.

Gary Johnson poses for a picture during a lowrider event

Andy Lyman

Gary Johnson poses for a picture during a lowrider event

Johnson said he was “honored and flattered” by the display of cars lined up outside the convention center, some holding Johnson-Weld campaign signs.

Johnson said he thought the display from the mostly-Latino lowrider owners was because of his view towards immigration. Before he was nominated, Johnson campaigned on immigration reform that would include work visas as part of a path to citizenship.

“The reason why the lowriders, the Latino community right now, nationwide, is coming to recognize us is maybe we can bring comprehensive immigration reform to the table,” Johnson said.

A recent Fox News Latino poll showed 16 percent of Latinos would vote for Johnson if the election was held right now. A previous poll though, showed Johnson polling at four percent among the same voters.

Weld took a chance to appeal to Spanish speakers during a pre-rally press conference.

“We’re the only ticket that’s fiscally responsable,” Weld said in mixed Spanish. “Fiscalmente responsable y socialmente tolerante.”

Bill Weld

Andy Lyman

Bill Weld during a rally in Albuquerque

During the rally, of about 800, both Johnson and Weld went through their usual Libertarian selling points of free markets and liberty, or as Weld often says of government, “Stay out of our bedrooms, and stay out of our pocket books.”

Johnson is running as an alternative to the two major party candidates, both of whom are very unpopular.

Juan Hernandez, a Republican political advisor, attended the rally to spread the word that he is not supporting his party’s nominee Donald Trump and is backing the Johnson campaign.

“I’ve always thought of the GOP, the grand old party, as the one of Lincoln, the one that fought against slavery,” Hernandez told NM Political Report.  “And Reagan, the last one that passed a truly comprehensive immigration reform.”

Hernandez previously advised former Mexico President Vicente Fox, U.S. Sen. John McCain and former president George W. Bush. Hernandez said he remains close to the Bush family and spoke with them before he pledged his support for Johnson.

“It was important for them to understand why I was joining Gary,” Hernandez said.

Political advisor Juan Hernandez

Andy Lyman

Political adviser Juan Hernandez

Hernandez also started a group, Hispanic Republicans of Texas, with George P. Bush, the son of Jeb Bush. Hernandez said through the group he met Gov. Susana Martinez.

“I wish she would join us over here with Gary,” Hernandez said.

Martinez hasn’t endorsed any candidate for president, though previously said she could not support Johnson because of his views on legalizing marijuana.

Johnson and Weld promised to continue on the campaign trail, selling the idea that they are a team and that voters will get a “two for one” deal if they are elected.

Weld joked that he and Gary have always admired each other and their friendship is growing.

“That’s only ripened over with the years as we’ve discovered that each of us plays pool and backgammon,” Weld said. “It just gets better and better.”