Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016 | 10 p.m.
Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld brought their fledgling, third-party campaign to Las Vegas, hoping to make an appeal to Nevadans disillusioned by both major party presidential candidates.
Johnson and Weld, the former Republican governors of New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively, are taking their campaign on a cross-country tour — from Nevada to Miami to New England — with the hope of getting enough support to qualify for the presidential debates. Johnson needs to hit a 15 percent threshold in the polls to appear in the debates.
To that end, Johnson painted his view of the future for an enthusiastic crowd of about 250 the Foundry at the SLS.
He argued for conservative issues like lower taxes, a free market, and school choice. At the same time, he stressed the importance of freedom in social issues, like same-sex marriage and abortion.
“We want the freedom and liberty to make choices in our own lives as long as those choices don’t put others in harm’s way,” Johnson said.
On the issue of gun control, Johnson said that people should be open to a discussion about how to keep the weapons away from the mentally ill and would-be terrorists.
Nevadans will have a chance to vote in November on a ballot measure that would expand background checks on gun sales and transfers in the state.
Johnson also stressed his support for legalizing recreational marijuana, which Nevadans will also vote on come November.
Weld, opening for Johnson, promised that their ticket would receive “massive Page 1, network publicity every single day” once they qualify for the debates. Then, he said, they would offer a "stylistic contrast to the other two candidates who are going to simply be screaming at each other."
Weld called the Republican and Democratic parties “monopolists” who hadn’t earned their positions. He blamed Republicans and Democrats for the “poisonous hyper partisanship in Washington” calling gridlock there a “death spiral."
He talked about the space that he and Johnson can fill with voters disillusioned with the two major parties and their candidates.
“The situation with just the two candidates when Gary and I got together it was Trump and Clinton and no real enthusiasm for either of them,” Weld said. “The situation was what I like to call hopeless but not serious."
Republicans Laura Oldar and Todd Hatten, who live in Henderson, said they came to Johnson’s rally looking for a third option to Trump and Clinton. They said they didn’t know much about Johnson until last week, when they started watching some YouTube videos to get a sense of his policies.
“We’re not Hillary supporters, we’re not Trump supporters,” Oldar said. “We’re looking for someone who is neither.”
Oldar said she has always disliked Clinton but was ambivalent about Trump. However, she said “the more he talks the more he puts his foot in his mouth.”
The Supreme Court is a top concern for Oldar, as it is with many other Republicans. She said that if she doesn’t feel confident that Johnson will appoint conservative justices, she would vote for Trump.
However, Johnson also holds an appeal for some who supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in his bid for the Democratic nomination.
Las Vegas residents Carlos Williams and Molly Davis, a registered Libertarian and nonpartisan, respectively, also said they were looking for an alternative to the two major party candidates after Sanders’ loss.
Williams said that he dislikes Trump and he doesn’t quite trust Clinton. He named foreign policy, social policy, and support for veterans as three of his top issues.
In the year of two deeply disliked major party presidential contenders, third-party candidates like Johnson have found a hospitable niche on the left and the right.
“I like Johnson,” William said. “He is someone who really resonates with me."