Note from the Editor: On Thursday I was able to do something few have the chance to do: spend the entire day with a Presidential candidate. Two-term Governor of New Mexico and likely Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson came to Minnesota for a fundraiser. What I learned during our time together reinforced the idea that this candidate means it when he claims to represent all Americans.
Gary Johnson doesn’t pander to religious extremists. He also shrugs off the conventional wisdom that associating with religious minorities, such as Pagans, is a bad idea. Back in October, he participated in a Pagan Media Town Hall, at the time when mainstream media most loves to write derogatory fluff articles about Pagans and “real” witches. Johnson was roundly mocked for his participation by the mainstream press. Even after that, he still accepts me, an open Pagan, as his Minnesota host.
I meet Johnson at the airport on Thursday; he’s dressed casually with a backpack slung over one shoulder. It looks natural on him, an avid outdoors man. Paragliding, climbing Mount Everest, ironman triathlons, are all part of his life. His fitness can only help him: his schedule has him running from one event to the next for the next five days, with a schedule that spreads from 4 am to very late at night.
At the baggage claim we talk about safe subjects like weather, the flight, losing your luggage. I can’t help teasing him just a bit. I ask, “So, have you ever been picked up by a crazy cat lady with six cats waiting for you in the car?”
He stops scanning the carousel for his bag and looks at me, “Do you have six cats waiting for me in the car?”
I laugh, assuring him no cats await him in my car. This sparks a discussion of a bill put before him during his time as the Governor of New Mexico. It sought to limit the number of animals a person could own in an attempt to stop animal hoarding. He vetoed the bill because people should be able to have as many pets as they can care for, and if the pets are not cared for, animal welfare addresses that. He notes that animal hoarding is a mental illness; no bill can cure someone of mental illness and this bill would have made that illness a crime. His views on illness extends to drugs. “Drug addiction is a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue,” he says. Johnson favors legalizing marijuana and commuting sentences for persons incarcerated on non-violent drug charges.
After grabbing his bag we head to the cat-free car and drive to Hyatt Place South Minneapolis. There, like most everywhere we go, Johnson acts like an average citizen. His unassuming demeanor and lack of entourage grant him anonymity. Also contributing is the 7% to 9% he’s at in the polls, the reason that brings him to Minnesota.