Libertarian Presidential Nominee Gary Johnson Appeals To Discouraged Voters In Miami

Aug 18, 2016

The Libertarian Party's presidential campaign made a stop in Miami Wednesday night.

Gary Johnson, a former Republican governor of New Mexico, is trying to take a bite out of the two party system in an election cycle where both Democrats and Republican candidates have high unfavorable ratings. To that end, his speech at Florida International University focused on policy and motivating supporters.

In a press conference before the speech, Johnson described his platform as "fiscally conservative, socially accommodating." Johnson said he'd submit a balanced budget to Congress in the first 100 days and raise the retirement age so the government can afford Social Security in the future. He also said he'd support free trade.

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, left, and vice presidential candidate Bill Weld are both former governors -- Johnson of New Mexico, and Weld of Massachusetts.

"I think that most Americans associate free trade with crony capitalism, when free trade is the opposite of crony capitalism," Johnson said. "Free trade is when the government doesn't inject itself and pick winners and losers."

On social issues, Johnson said he'd legalize marijuana, eliminate the death penalty and not interfere with the right to bear arms.

"If you were to look at banning semiautomatic rifles, that is a category of rifle of which there are 30 million that are really owned by law-abiding citizens," he said. "If there were a ban on those kinds of weapons, we would create an entirely new class of criminals."

Before they can present those policies in upcoming presidential debates, Johnson and his vice presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, need to have the support of 15 percent of prospective voters in pre-election polls. The pair said they've seen significant increases in financial support over the past two weeks, and that they believe they'll be able to qualify for the debate.

At the event, 11-year old Giovanny Suarez described his choice between the two major parties.

"Trump is... I don't know how to explain it," Suarez said. "I don't like either of them."

His mother, Olena Bracho, called it "crazy or corrupt."

Giovanny Suarez and his mother Olena Bracho came to the Gary Johnson rally to investigate a "third option" after supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
Credit Rowan Moore Gerety / WLRN

"This is America. There has to be a third way," she said. "There's always an option in America."

Bracho is from Venezuela. She became a citizen two years ago, and this will be her first time voting. She supported Sanders in the Democratic primary. But when she saw the general election shaping up to be Trump vs. Clinton.

"I literally Googled 'third option 2016 election,' and he popped up," she said, referring to Johnson.

Bracho says she discovered an affinity for Libertarian ideas like limited government and legalizing marijuana, but she was keen to hear what Johnson had to say about immigration.

On Wednesday night, Johnson framed the issue in very personal terms.

"If it were you and I and it were our families and we couldn't get across the border to get jobs that existed, you know what, we would sneak our way  across the border," he said at the podium in front of a packed auditorium of 600. "That's what we would do."

At the end of the night, Bracho was still wishing she had heard something more on climate change, but she says no candidate is perfect. Johnson's got her vote.