In this year of tumultuous political uncertainties, a viable third-party candidate could easily emerge—perhaps in the form of our own Gary Johnson.

Johnson, New Mexico’s former Republican governor, is hoping to run for president for a second time as the Libertarian Party nominee. With his adopted party’s national convention less than two months away, he’s the clear frontrunner for the nomination.

He was the Libertarians’ candidate in 2012, after being snubbed out of contention by the Republican Party, and got more than a million votes—the most of any Libertarian candidate ever. This election year, with all its unpredictability, he could actually be a contender.

A March poll by Monmouth University, pitting him in a race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, put him at 11 percent. Of course, we’re still not certain The Donald will win the GOP nomination and Hillary will get the Democratic nod, but we do know that in a year of insurgent candidacies, a third-party candidacy could really shake things up.

Who knows, maybe the national disgust in status-quo politics will actually send both major party nominees packing, at least in the bid of the White House. Perhaps this is the year a “Third Way” candidate will be elected.

The 63-year-old Johnson is a viable option. He’s fiscally conservative and socially progressive, and a lot of voters are, too. Plus, he has a record of standing firmly, and stubbornly, on his principles. In New Mexico, he set records with the number of vetoes he issued, insisting on a smaller state government while the state’s private-sector economy grew.

That I know from reading about his administration. I didn’t live in New Mexico when he was governor, though I did meet him once at a park in Las Vegas, when he was cycling through town for one cause or another. He’s quite the Iron Man competitor, you know.

He strikes me as genuine and consistent in his values, and determined to advance a libertarian message that government doesn’t have to be militaristic and centralized to keep America safe and strong. He doesn’t fit well into the Republican Party of old, and he sure wouldn’t fit into the modern Democratic Party, but he could pull in some of the anti-Trump and anti-Clinton crowd with his libertarian rhetoric.

Most Americans, Johnson says, are Libertarians and don’t know it. His best chance to prove this to be true is to get on stage in the upcoming national presidential debates.

To get an invite to the debates, a candidate must be polling at 15 percent or better.

The Monmouth poll suggests he’s close but not quite there.

If he can get on the stage with Trump and Clinton, he’ll have his chance to convince voters he’s a good alternative. And if he does well, the debates could change everything.

Of course, it could be Clinton vs. Ted Cruz, or John Kasich, or some brokered candidate to emerge from an open Republican National Convention. Heck, even Bernie Sanders isn’t out of contention yet, on the Democratic Party side, so the possibilities seem endless. Trump could even end up as an independent candidate still, which would really mix things up.

That’s why the Libertarian Party has its best chance yet to elect a president this year. With rebellions against the establishment going on in both parties, people on the left and the right might see merit in voting for Johnson.

A long shot I know, but it has been an unpredictable election cycle so far, and there is still plenty of time for another unexpected turn in the race for the presidency. It’s worth keeping an eye on Johnson’s campaign.

The question for New Mexico is, will Johnson win the trappings of “favorite son” status and take his home state away from either, or all, the other candidates? In a race against Trump, I think Johnson would win the state. And I’ll bet he could beat Cruz, too.

But against Clinton, I think he has some serious competition. My guess is that New Mexico’s Democratic Party movers and shakers are still establishment-friendly enough to tilt toward Clinton in the primary, as well as in the general.

It’s actually conceivable that New Mexico’s general election ballot will include four significant candidates—Cruz or Kasich as the GOP nominee, Trump running as an independent, Clinton as the Dems’ nominee and Johnson as the Libertarians’. If that’s the case, what an election it will be.

Then again, it has already been a tumultuous year. It’s a good year to expect the unexpected.

Tom McDonald is founder and editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor of the Roswell Daily Record. He may be reached at tmcdonald@gazettemediaservices.com or tmcdonald@rdrnews.com.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.