Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s 2012 presidential candidate, visited Cal State Fullerton Monday to promote his message of limited government, saying that voting for a third-party candidate is not a waste of anyone’s vote.
Johnson, who served two terms as the New Mexico governor from 1995 to 2003, originally ran as a Republican in this election, but switched to the Libertarian Party in May after a stagnant showing at the beginning of the election cycle.
He is known for his views on low-taxation and military nonintervention. He earned the nickname “Governor Veto” for vetoing what he claimed was more than 700 bills, in addition to 1,000 line-item vetoes while in office.
By the end of his eight years as governor, the Washington Post reported the size of state government had been considerably reduced and New Mexico was basking in a budget surplus.
Students had a chance to meet Johnson before and after the event, which was set up by the CSUF group Students for Gary Johnson. Many attendees to the noontime speech in the Quad wore Johnson and Ron Paul shirts.
Johnson said citizens have the power to change the course of the country.
“You’re your own movie director, you’re your own producer, you’re on the screen. Do you like what you see? If you don’t like what you see, change your life. You have control of your life, and you can make that change tomorrow,” Johnson said to the crowd of nearly 120 students.
Johnson made his name by founding a construction and handyman company, Big J, that grew to employ a thousand people. He had never been involved in politics before he ran for governor of New Mexico as a Republican in the 1995 election, something he said a Republican chairman at the time told him would not allow him to win.
“Well I did win, and I’d like to think it was based on what I had to say, which was, ‘Let’s just bring a common sense business approach to state government.’ Best product, best service, lowest price. Let’s keep government out of the bedroom, let’s keep government away from making decisions in your and my life that only you and I should be making,” said Johnson.
Johnson urged students to reconsider the notion of “wasted votes,” or votes for a candidate who has little chance of winning, such as a third-party candidate.
“I know right now that you’re all hearing this notion of wasted votes. What is more of a wasted vote than voting for somebody you don’t believe in?” asked Johnson. “The way we change things in this country is to vote for the person that most mirrors what you think.”
Derek Leininger, a Students for Gary Johnson group organizer who is pursuing a master’s in public administration at CSUF, said no Californian’s vote counts anyway, since “our state always goes blue.”
According to a Reason-Rupe poll released Friday, 53 percent of Californians said they will vote for Obama and 38 percent will vote for Romney. The poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.
“To actually really make your vote count in this election, bolstering the third party is a very productive way to show the opposition that we’re not consenting anymore,” said Leininger, who became a Libertarian in 2007 by being attracted to Congressman Ron Paul.
The Orange County Libertarian Party has reported a 6 percent growth in members over the last month and a half, according to Tom Hanson, chair for the Orange County Libertarian Party, who was present at the event.
Others disagree with the viability of third-party candidates. Don Matthewson, Ph.D., a political science professor at CSUF, said most libertarian views are immature, akin to a two-year-old who wants less rules to follow.
“A well thought-out third-party candidate cannot win, but can force the other two candidates to face some key issues,” said Matthewson, citing Ross Perot as an example. Perot won 21 percent of the popular vote in 1992.
Historically, third parties have not fared well in presidential elections. In 2008, the Independent and Libertarian candidates managed only 0.56 percent and 0.4 percent of the popular vote, respectively, according to the Federal Elections Commission.
Johnson was introduced by Assemblyman Chris Norby, who presides over the 65th assembly district, which includes CSUF, and Steve Collett, treasurer of the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine initiative.
Norby, a Republican and CSUF alumnus, said war should not be a permanent policy for this country, and that people who believe in freedom have a choice this fall.
“Remember this: It’s much better to vote for somebody you want and lose, than vote for somebody you don’t want, and win,” he said.