Johnson campaign reports $2.9M surge in donations

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, speaks Aug. 6 at the University of Utah Student Union in Salt Lake City. Scott Sommerdorf/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s campaign reported $2.9 million in contributions during the first two weeks of August, a financial surge that the former New Mexico governor sees as evidence his third-party pitch is resonating with voters frustrated by this year’s major-party nominees.

The Washington Post noted that this month’s haul is larger than the $2.3 million collected during his entire presidential run in 2012.

“The fact that we received more than 90,000 individual small contributions is overwhelming, and a major boost for the campaign,” Johnson said in a statement. “It is increasingly clear that a great many Americans, from across the political spectrum, are ready to join our effort to offer an experienced, credible alternative to the polarizing nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties.”

The Johnson campaign credits an online drive launched Aug. 3 that asked supporters to donate $15 on Aug. 15 in order to help him get the 15 percent support in certain polls needed to participate in this fall’s presidential debates.

“We’ve mounted a pretty aggressive online campaign,” spokesman Joe Hunter said Wednesday. “Clearly, it’s working.”

The $2.9 million cash injection is more than double the $1.3 million Johnson collected from Jan. 1 through June 30, the latest date for which fundraising numbers are available on the Federal Election Commission website.

The average contribution to the August fundraising drive — which the campaign dubbed a “money bomb” — was $32, the campaign said in a statement.

Fundraising for this year’s Libertarian ticket also has been boosted by Johnson’s running mate, William Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts.

Some 450,000 people have signed a petition seeking to have Johnson included in televised presidential debates, according to the campaign.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a private, nonprofit organization, determines which candidates will make it onto the stage for debates scheduled to begin next month, using a 15 percent threshold in major polls as a qualification. Johnson “reaches nearly 10 percent support in an average of the most recent commission-approved polls,” the popular polling website FiveThirtyEight.com reported this week.

Jason Alter, 39, an electrical engineer in Thornton, Colo., made a $294 contribution on June 2. Alter officially changed his party affiliation to Libertarian five years ago, he said, but has identified with the party’s small-government, socially liberal philosophy since college. “It’s one of the larger contributions I’ve made to a political campaign,” Alter said.

For the Libertarian candidate to make it onto the presidential debate stage would be significant progress, Alter said, “especially considering most of the polls don’t even list him in the additional options.”

Alter said Johnson, who is scheduled to make a campaign appearance Saturday afternoon at the Albuquerque Convention Center, is doing a good job of gaining supporters through social media, but the next step would be to reach potential voters via television.

Don Bruckner, 55, an Albuquerque lawyer, said that until this year, he considered himself a Republican his entire voting life, pulling the lever for the party’s presidential nominees since he was first eligible to vote. In 1994 — the same year Johnson surprised New Mexico’s political establishment when he successfully won election as a Republican governor — Bruckner ran on the Republican ticket for attorney general. He lost to Democrat Tom Udall, now a U.S. senator, but met Johnson along the campaign trail, finding him to be a “decent, honorable guy.”

Bruckner said he left the Republican Party this year after being “shocked” that the GOP selected Donald Trump as its presidential nominee.

“The concept of limited government is totally foreign to him,” Bruckner said of Trump. “He wants to expand the government. He wants to round up millions of people. He wants to ban people because of their religion. It’s a long laundry list that continues.”

If Trump is the standard-bearer for the Republican Party, Bruckner said, he won’t have anything to do with it. By June 27, Bruckner had contributed $2,700 to Johnson’s campaign. And while Bruckner doesn’t think Johnson has a good chance to win this year’s election, he could help the Libertarian political philosophy “grow into a majority movement.”

“One of his messages is there are a lot of people who are Libertarians who just don’t realize it,” Bruckner said of Johnson. “I think this will benefit American politics long-term, with visible support for a candidate who supports fiscal responsibility but is open-minded on social issues.”

Contact Justin Horwath at 505-986-3017 or jhorwath@sfnewmexican.com.