Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson made his third Virginia “Liberty Tour” stop of the day when he made his entrance at the Hippodrome Theatre last week.
“I started the day getting to ski with Jerry Falwell Jr. on a plastic ski hill,” Johnson told reporters, referencing his morning visit to Liberty University in Lynchburg. “Anyway, I was just at the University of Virginia. Tell me, are we polling at 15 percent in Virginia?”
The answer to Johnson’s rhetorical question was “almost,” according to a Christopher Newport University poll from the day before placing him at 11 percent of the vote.
“We’re leading in three demographics,” Johnson said. “We’re leading among independents — that’s significant now because 50 percent of voters are registered as independents, and we’re tied for the lead among millennials (…) and there have been three polls with active military personnel and I’ve been overwhelmingly the favorite.”
Downstairs, Johnson greeted supporters in jeans and Chicago Cubs hat.
“It’s been, what, since 1908 when the Cubs won the World Series? There’s a symbolism here,” Johnson said, introducing the idea of it maybe being “the year of the underdog.”
Johnson spent the majority of his day in Virginia explaining why he thinks Libertarians represent the majority of American voters: fiscally conservative, socially inclusive, supportive of free markets and a strong defense, but skeptical of foreign interventions.
The Richmond event, previously scheduled for VCU’s Harris Hall auditorium, changed to the larger venue the day prior to accomodate couple hundred people in attendance.
For Johnson, the only third-party candidate on the ballot in all 50 states, his visit to Richmond was a little different than Lynchburg and Charlottesville.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch endorsed the former New Mexico governor last month, and Johnson said he “absolutely” felt smug about it given Tim Kaine, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s running mate, is a Richmond native.
“Six major paper endorsements,” Johnson told reporters. “I think that’s zero for Trump.”
The Times-Dispatch endorsement marked the first time in 36 years the newspaper has not endorsed a Republican candidate.
Although Johnson campaigned for president as a Libertarian in 2012 and again this election cycle, he won both terms as New Mexico governor running as a Republican.
While governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003 Johnson was known as “Governor No” for his 200 vetoes within his first six months in office, and “Puff Daddy” for his quest to decriminalize marijuana, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Johnson’s media advisor, Terry Michael said if voters don’t want a Clinton presidency, and want a better reason than “‘not Donald Trump,’ then Gary Johnson is your candidate.”
“Gary wants to ensure that when you all are my age you won’t be deprived of social security or medicare,” Michael said regarding Johnson’s appeal to millennial voters.
Michael said another one of Johnson’s signature issues this election is student loan debt reform.
In fact, Johnson has proposed cutting the U.S. Department of Education altogether if elected in an effort to shrink the size and scope of government.
Student loan debt in the United States currently exceeds $1.3 trillion, which is more accumulated non-mortgage debt than credit cards and car loans, according to the Federal Reserve.
While Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and then-senator Kaine championed for student loan debt reform in Congress — successfully passing bipartisan legislation — Johnson’s logic hinges on the issue being beyond resolve.
Johnson said he thinks if the federal government stops loaning money, debt would be “maybe half” of what it is now, because colleges and universities could not continue raising tuition.
“I would be open to a bailout of student loans from the standpoint of reducing the interest rate paid on the student loan,” Johnson said. “It’s unfair.”
When asked what facet of government would oversee compliance with Title IX law and sexual assault reporting standards on college campuses without the Dept. of Education, Johnson seemed under the impression the Department of Justice maintained that responsibility.
“Well, maybe the Department of Justice needs to have a role in that,” Johnson said.
Sarah is a senior studying political science and philosophy of law. She is a copyeditor for INK Magazine and reporter for the Capital News Service wire. Last spring, the Virginia Press Association awarded Sarah 3rd place for Public Safety Writing Portfolio and the Hearst Awards recognized her as the 4th place winner for Breaking News Writing. In April, Sarah was invited to the White House for the Administration’s innaugural College Reporter Day. She previously worked as an editorial intern for as Congressional Quarterly Researcher and SAGE Business Researcher in Washington, D.C., as well as RVAmag and GayRVA.com
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