Editor’s note: This week, NM Political Report will publish Q&As with candidates for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and governor about their policy platforms regarding a range of topics, including abortion, contraception, LGBTQ issues and domestic violence.
For links to all of our stories, see here.
The following is from a Q&A with Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for U.S. Senate.
NMPR: If elected, how will your beliefs about the separation between government and religion guide your work in the U.S. Senate?
Gary Johnson: Well, that they should be separate, period. They have to be, and that’s of course Constitutional.
NMPR: Is healthcare a human right? Why or why not?
Gary Johnson: I believe in the free market. Do we need healthcare? Yes. Do I believe the government should be providing healthcare? No. … If we had a free market approach to healthcare, I genuinely believe that all of us would pay-as-you-go in a system that would be incredibly affordable as compared to today. We would have insurance to cover ourselves for catastrophic injury and illness, and like I say, we would pay-as-you-go.
I envision for a free market approach for healthcare. We would have Gallbladders-R-Us. We would have a clinic that specializes in gallbladder surgery for thousands of dollars as opposed to tens of thousands of dollars. And if you would extrapolate that example to virtually everything, that’s the way it would operate. Right now, anything that’s an elective surgery is a lot more competitive, and a lot less money.
NMPR: If elected, describe measures you would take, if any, to ensure contraception is easily accessible to anyone who needs it?
Gary Johnson: Again, should that be a government rule? Maybe not. But I’m looking to balance the federal budget, and in that context, what government currently does is support [contraception access], to some degree, in all sorts of different areas. I wouldn’t be getting in the way of that. To me, it’s just common sense. I have to think that the morning-after pill, which is available now to everybody, should more than make a positive contribution to unwanted pregnancies.
NMPR: What measures would you take, if any, to ensure that abortion is legal, safe and accessible?
Gary Johnson: I’ve always had a position of: this is perhaps one of the most difficult decisions that anyone would have, and by anyone, the woman involved has, and that decision solely lies with the woman involved.
NMPR: Please describe how an LGBTQ person in your life has affected your worldview.
Gary Johnson: Some of the nicest people that I have met fall in that category, and why would you want to discriminate in any way their ability to pursue happiness? As a Libertarian/Independent running for the U.S. Senate, I think that’s something that we’re all entitled to—the pursuit of happiness. As long as that pursuit of happiness doesn’t harm anyone else in any way, or potentially put another person in harm’s way, that’s a right that we have Constitutionally.
NMPR: What are your priorities when it comes to addressing needs and concerns of LGBTQ people, including those in rural and tribal communities?
Gary Johnson: My priority would be that they fall in the same category as all of us. … I’m going to do what’s right for everybody. In that context, having someone that recognizes that discriminations do exist and speaks out against those discriminations, I would argue would be a power that as an elected official that you have. I would be speaking out understanding those discriminations, and that they shouldn’t exist.
NMPR: What is your stance regarding proposals to enact federal work requirements for SNAP, subsidized housing and other public assistance programs?
Gary Johnson: I’m [an] anti-regulation guy. I think that so much of what governments regulate or try to dictate by law, although well-intentioned, really at the end of the day, doesn’t impact the issue itself.
Looking at affordable housing, it doesn’t exist, because of government regulation. … It has to do with the zoning, it has to do with regulation of how affordable housing in today’s world has to be built. If you asked an engineer or an architect to design and build affordable housing without any regard whatsoever for building codes, regulations, they’re not going to build anything unsafe. But believe me, the cost would be fractional to what they are with regard to ordinary housing. And it kind of starts with zoning.
Number one, if you walk into the Ikea store, they’re going to have a complete unit contained within 600 square feet … But you can’t even build that unit, because of the restrictions that exist, starting with zoning. Zoning won’t allow for density beyond a certain factor. Affordable housing is an oxymoron, when you look at it relative to the rules and regulations that everybody has to follow. …
NMPR: What is your stance regarding the Republican tax bill that includes major cuts to food assistance and a provision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a key part of the ACA, that will go into effect with the tax bill next year?
Gary Johnson: I believe that the number-one problem facing this country right now is the deficit, and that we have to reduce spending very shortly … because our deficit this year is going to be a trillion dollars. With any increase at all in interest rates—and interest rates are going up— … we’re going to see very shortly where all discretionary spending is going to go to paying the interest on the debt. That is a horrible situation. We are, at some point, going to have horrible inflation that’s going to accompany these deficits. We’re talking about printing money to be able to accomplish what you’re asking, “Do I support those cuts?”
… I support a balanced budget. Is it fair that we’re spending money that our grandchildren’s grandchildren are going to pay off? That is not sustainable, and the breakdown is going to be inflation, the breakdown is going to be all the money of the federal government is going to go simply to paying the interest. Not the debt but the interest on the debt. That is a responsibility that everyone in Washington seems to have their head in the sand over. And it is, in my opinion, the biggest issue facing this country. It’s fiddling while Rome burns. So with regard to any cuts, look, I’d like to see the cuts very broadly based. Nothing is across-the-board when it comes to reduction, because some things work, most things really don’t, and creating a dependent society where we’re having to print 25 cents of every dollar that we’re spending, this is impending disaster.
NMPR: What’s your agenda for helping combat our state’s and our nation’s high prevalence of substance abuse disorders?
Gary Johnson: First of all, I advocate for the legalization of marijuana. I think legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse, because it’s so much safer than everything else that’s out there. … I realize you are also talking about opioids, which—marijuana right now is an alternative to opioids, and nobody gets addicted or dies as a result of their use of marijuana.
But I have always said that when it comes to illegal drugs, that 90 percent of the problem … is the prohibition of drugs, not the actual use. But look, for the 10 percent that do have issues with drugs, that ought to be our focus, not locking up and incarcerating people for choices that they make, that in their lives really don’t adversely affect others.
NMPR: If elected, what will you do to address the high numbers of families affected by incarceration, including rising numbers of women?
Gary Johnson: The number one arrest offense in the United States in the last ten years is still marijuana. I am walking the walk here. I was Governor of New Mexico for eight years, and I advocated for and, in fact, pardoned individuals who had served their sentences.
And yes, we have an incredibly high incarceration rate. I may have vetoed more legislation when I was governor than the other 49 governors combined, and a lot of that legislation had to do with criminalizing activities that a lot of people partake in—it’s their choice—but if you’re going to criminalize those activities, ultimately you’re going to lock them up. And that’s why we have the situation we have today. We have the highest incarceration rate, on a per capita basis, of any country in the world. And that is abominable.
NMPR: How will you take action regarding the federal government’s detention of asylees and immigrant families, including families with children?
Gary Johnson: If elected, I am not going to Washington to be a wallflower. I intend to go to Washington guns blazing, and that is one of those issues that is absolutely abominable. The splitting up of families—I have taken a very vocal stance against what is our current immigration policy, which is, I think, incredibly discriminatory and contrary to what this country was founded on, which is that we’re all immigrants to this country.
NMPR: What are your top priorities for improving safety and support services for survivors of sex offenses?
Gary Johnson: First, I think that it’s all about understanding it from the very beginning, and seeing an end to it as a result of awareness. I really am heartened by the #MeToo movement. I’m heartened by this level of awareness that it’s just not acceptable at all, period, and past transgressions are being punished, and I think they should be punished to the fullest.
When you talk about the survivors, well, that’s part of mental health. Those services are available, and to what degree the government currently subsidizes those services, I would be looking to cut those services, along with everything else we’re doing, by 25 percent. But I’m not looking to do away with those services.
NMPR: What are your top priorities for improving safety and support services for survivors of domestic violence?
Gary Johnson: I don’t think there’s an awareness of domestic violence today as there should be relative to say, the #MeToo movement against sexual violence … But when you look at people in prison, that’s violence, that’s physical harm from one individual to another. I think the government has a primary responsibility to protect us against individuals’ wrongs, corporations, foreign government that would do us harm—that would be physical harm, that would be fraud—but in this case, physical harm, violence, is punishable by prison. These are the people who belong in prison, not the pot smoker.
NMPR: Is there anything you wish I’d asked about issues that affect New Mexico women and families?
Gary Johnson: Forty-five percent of Americans when they register to vote today are registering as Independents. Where is that representation among the two-party system? No one is going to agree 100 percent with anyone else. The only person you’re going to agree with 100 percent is yourself. This country should be about independent people getting elected to office, making a contribution, and then getting out [of office]. I’m a firm believer in term limits, I think term limits would be a silver bullet. We seem to have boxed ourselves into either being a Republican or a Democrat. None of us fall in that category, and I hope you get from this interview that I am certainly not boxed in either red or blue. I’ve got an appeal to both sides, which I think epitomizes what we all are. All of us are independent.
Because of schedule constraints, Senator Martin Heinrich was unable to answer all the questions posed to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Republican candidate Mick Rich said his schedule was full and did not participate.
All of this week’s candidate Q&A’s were edited for clarity and length, although we did not edit the meaning of candidates’ answers. We did not include, however, tangents or off-topic issues candidates raised during the course of the conversations. It’s also important to note that the candidate’s answers aren’t annotated and we don’t point out any possible inaccuracies or misstatements.