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Gary Johnson, Medical Marijuana Advocate, Chafes At Being Excluded From GOP Debates

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WASHINGTON -- GOP presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor who has repeatedly voiced his support for legalizing marijuana, has lashed out at the Republican National Committee for their role in the Republican nomination process and what he described as their complicity in his exclusion from the GOP debates.

In a letter to the RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on Friday, Johnson questioned whether the "Republican 'establishment' " had been pushing him out of the Republican debates, including the most recent presidential debate in Las Vegas, because of his outlier positions on social issues.

"It is no secret that not all of my views, particularly on some so-called 'social issues' are shared by certain elements of the Republican Party - elements who frankly exert inordinate influence within the Party," wrote Johnson in his letter. "Many of my supporters who are Independents - and even Democrats - are quick to suggest that the Republican 'establishment' doesn't want my voice heard. I hope that is not the case. To the contrary, as I travel the country, I find a great number of Republicans who not only share my views, but who feel disenfranchised by a vocal minority that has become the face of the Party."

The statement comes just days after Johnson said on a conference call with reporters that he'd consider pardoning all nonviolent marijuana offenders as part of what he called a "rational drug policy." It's a position that he hasn't shied away from politically, calling pot smokers an important "untapped voting bloc."

There's some evidence for that political calculus.

A recently released Gallup poll found a full 50 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, with support for legalization as high as 62 percent among Americans under the age of 30.

Yet Republican presidential candidates have shied away from the issue. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has made no public statements on marijuana legalization, and Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has vowed to keep the substance illegal. Johnson's libertarian counterpart, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), has said the issue should be left to the states.

Johnson said his exclusion from the debates means that constituents will only hear a small segment of the spectrum of Republican opinion. The problem, he said, is that invitations to speak at presidential debates are given based on polling numbers, which he said are largely a measure of name recognition. But it's difficult to achieve name recognition without appearing in the national debates, he argued.

A request for comment from the RNC sent late Friday was not returned.

READ his full letter to the RNC'S Reince Priebus below:

There is one thing about which all Republicans agree: Our greatest imperative in 2012 is to elect a Republican President of the United States.

It is the simple reality that our country is headed in a disastrous financial direction that prompted me to seek the Republican nomination for president. As a Republican who was elected - and reelected - governor of New Mexico, an overwhelmingly Democrat state, I recognized that the right kind of leadership is essential if we are to regain the White House in 2012.

Having compiled a record as governor that, by any measure, demonstrates the ability to curb spending, cut taxes and create an economic and regulatory environment that will bring about real job creation, I entered the race for president with the belief that I bring to the table not only the credentials, but ideas that Republicans would like to see and hear. Never did it occur to me that I would be excluded from the conversation; however, that is precisely what is happening - and I believe the Republican National Committee bears some responsibility for what is going on.

Debates, such as the one this week in Las Vegas, are supposed to be opportunities for voters to see the candidates, hear their views, and judge their qualifications without the distortions of money, recognition and favoritism. However, when organizing those debates is left to the national news media, the result has been an absurd Catch-22. Invitations to participate in the debates are based upon arbitrary polling criteria decided in the conference rooms of media organizations such as CNN or NBC or the Washington Post.

Of course poll performance in the early stages of a campaign is almost entirely a function of money and name recognition - those same distortions debates are intended to eliminate. Even worse, the same organizations who organize the debates are the ones who conduct the polls upon which their invitations are based. In my case, most of those organizations do not include me in their polling. The net result is that a handful of media executives have largely denied Republicans the opportunity to hear from a former governor whose record clearly merits their consideration.

I recognize that the RNC is not in the business of helping one candidate for the nomination or another. However, I would suggest that it is the business of the RNC to insure that the Republican nominating process is not ceded to the likes of CNN and the Washington Post. Commentators across the board have pointed to the fundamental unfairness of my exclusion from the process. Even other candidates have done the same. But nowhere have we heard the voice of the Republican National Committee. As a lifelong Republican and a former Republican governor, I would suggest that allowing the national news media - who do not have the best interests of the Republican Party in mind - to pre-select the presidential field is nothing less than irresponsible.

It is no secret that not all of my views, particularly on some so-called 'social issues' are shared by certain elements of the Republican Party - elements who frankly exert inordinate influence within the Party. Many of my supporters who are Independents - and even Democrats - are quick to suggest that the Republican "establishment" doesn't want my voice heard. I hope that is not the case. To the contrary, as I travel the country, I find a great number of Republicans who not only share my views, but who feel disenfranchised by a vocal minority that has become the face of the Party.

My electoral success in a heavily Democrat state should serve as proof that my candidacy presents an opportunity to demonstrate that the Republican Party is big enough to allow a slightly different voice to be heard. That will be important next year when it comes time to turn our attention to the ultimate goal: Convincing a majority of Americans that they want a Republican in the White House.

With the early Republican primaries and caucuses fast approaching, I urge you to exert some leadership and reclaim the nominating process from the national news media who are today pre-ordaining the viability and success of candidates. It is Republican voters who ultimately lose when the process is skewed, and serving the interests of those voters is, in fact, your responsibility, as is the integrity of the nominating process.

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