Monday 5 December 2016

Libertarians pick candidate for US presidential bid

Published 30/05/2016 | 03:26

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks to supporters at the party convention in Orlando, Florida (AP)
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks to supporters at the party convention in Orlando, Florida (AP)

The Libertarian Party nominated Gary Johnson as its presidential candidate, believing he can challenge presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton because of their poor showing in popularity polls.

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Mr Johnson, 63, won the nomination on the second ballot at the party's convention in Orlando, Florida, defeating Austin Petersen, founder of The Libertarian Republic magazine, and anti-computer virus company founder John McAfee.

The delegates selected former Massachusetts governor William Weld to be his vice presidential running mate.

Former New Mexico governor Mr Johnson, the party's nominee in 2012, told the delegates that his job will be to get the Libertarian platform before the voters at a level the party has not seen.

"I am fiscally conservative in spades and I am socially liberal in spades," he told The Associated Press. "I would cut back on military interventions that have the unintended consequence of making us less safe in the world."

Mr Johnson proposes eliminating federal income and corporate taxes and replacing them with a national sales tax.

He would cut spending by eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the commerce and education departments, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

On social issues, Libertarians generally support abortion rights, gun rights, same-sex marriage and drug legalisation, saying people should be allowed to do anything that does not hurt others.

Mr Johnson served as New Mexico's governor from 1995 to 2003 as a Republican after a career as the owner of one of the state's largest construction companies.

He registered as Libertarian in 2012, winning the party's nomination and gaining just short of 1% of the vote against President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

For Mr Johnson to make a serious run this year, he needs to qualify for the presidential debates by averaging 15% in five recognised polls.

He hopes that is possible because Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton are both seen unfavourably by a majority of voters, according to recent polls.

The Libertarian Party has been running in presidential elections since 1972, but has never been a major factor. Its best showing was 1980, when Ed Clark got slightly more than 1% of the vote.

Third parties have never won a presidential election. Former Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, running on the Bull Moose Party ticket, got 27% of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes in 1912. He finished second to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, the only time a third party candidate has done that well.

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