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Gary Johnson Not Sure He'll Run For Office Again

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More November 8, 2012 11:14 AM

GarJoDeparts.jpgALBUQUERQUE – Gary Johnson rolls his carry-on luggage into the western chic lobby of the Hotel Albuquerque the morning after Election Day with the same carefree swagger he showed throughout his 2012 presidential campaign. Wearing sunglasses, he sets down his LL Bean looking backpack and extends a hand, issuing his favorite greeting, “Whadya know, man?”

He's chirpy and refreshed after an early night on the final day of a nationwide journey that started in April 2011. This was not the demeanor one would expect from a man who just finished in third place in a presidential election with 1 percent of the popular vote.

“I’m disappointed really from last night. I don’t think the vote was reflective of the excitement that is out here, the sentiment that is out there, I mean what that’s due to? Did it have to do with the fact that people really did take it to heart that their vote wasn’t gonna count and the lesser of two evils stuff as opposed to voting for the person you most align yourself with? I do think what I am saying aligns with most Americans but that didn’t bare itself out at all so that was a disappointment,” he says as communications director Joe Hunter looks on.

Despite his liveliness the morning after a record setting result for a Libertarian presidential candidate, Johnson can't contain his dejection at the way things turned out.

“On an expectations level we were really thinking twice that amount was really kinda the lower end of it. Because of the resources we had, we weren’t able to tap into whether that was gonna happen,” he says.

Discussions with Johnson’s staff revealed that, indeed, they did not conduct any internal polling throughout the campaign due to limited resources. So, they looked to other signs of interest and support like public polls where he was included on the list of candidates, and internet metrics. Johnson rattles off some facts and figures about Google+ and Twitter, then stumbles. Hunter intercedes with some search engine numbers.

“You were the fourth most searched in the last couple of days,” Hunter says.

“I was the fourth most searched in the last couple of days! Wow! That just didn’t equate to the votes,” Johnson says.

“I thought we generated the excitement, I thought we put a voice to issues that needed a voice. I think we did it. Like I say, from our vantage point we were gonna do a lot, lot better. That was based on polls that as recently had me at 5.6 percent in Ohio. That didn’t pan out at all; it just evaporated,” Johnson says.

Getting one percent of the popular vote was not exactly how Johnson hoped this nearly two-year journey would end, but it's something he considered. "I did envision this path. The notion of potentially running as a Libertarian, I did see that down the road,” he says.

There isn’t anything he thinks the campaign could have done differently, outside of raise more money, to improve the result. Johnson likes to point out that they spent approximately $2 per vote and got 1/100 of the popular vote. Johnson doesn’t have much sympathy for Romney or openness to the idea that Libertarians should abandon the LP and infiltrate the other parties to make them more libertarian. Johnson says he thinks Libertarians are making the other parties more libertarian by remaining in the LP.

In the short term, Johnson plans to go back to his house in Taos to conduct some long overdue home maintenance before heading to Washington next week for some media appearances and party business. The long game for Johnson, though, is a bit more blurry. In earlier interviews with Reason he’s hinted at the possibility of another presidential run in 2016, but now, the morning after, he sounds more uncertain.

Taking into account the track record of third party presidential candidates that run in consecutive cycles he said that he probably wouldn’t do so well. Ross Perot and Harry Browne both saw their vote totals go down by nearly half the second time they ran. Ralph Nader peaked in 2000 and never came close to those numbers in two subsequent presidential runs in 2004 and 2008.

“You can’t not do this and not be aware of the history. The history would suggest that we would do worse if we try this again,” Johnson says.

A Republican operative in New Mexico told me last night that Johnson could have done well, if not better than Heather Wilson, in the race for U.S. Senate here, but Johnson maintains that it’s an office he has no interest in. Democrat Martin Heinrich defeated Wilson 51-4.5 while Jon Barrie, running on the American Independent line, picked up 3.6 percent of the vote.

“I would have never predicted this,” Johnson says on the outcome of the Senate race in his home state where he is still fairly popular.

Johnson says he plans to stick with the Libertarians but he would not rule out a return to the Republicans for a future run.

“Never say never.”

Crossposted at Hit & Run

Libertarians Not Ready To Make Nice With Romney, Republicans

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More November 7, 2012 11:10 AM

LibertarianPorcupine.jpgALBUQUERQUE – The Mitt Romney bashing started when I caught up with Gary Johnson as he was doing a walkthrough of his Election Night party Tuesday night.

“It’s just remarkable to me that this is who Republicans put up. This was cast ahead of time. All the criticism of Romney which is that he really is not conservative and then on the social side, it’s a little scary,” Johnson said.

Johnson repeated comments he made earlier in the week that he thought the Romney campaign was doomed to failure.

During the election night party, snide comments from Johnson supporters watching Romney’s early poor showing in states like North Carolina and Virginia could be overheard from my perch at the mostly empty press table.

“I can’t believe he’s losing to this guy! What a bum!”

“How do you not beat Obummer?!”

“Man, Romney is a loser!”

After Ohio was called one Johnson staffer came over to chat about the results coming in from the Midwest states. He couldn’t resist a dig at Romney’s campaign. “We wanted to be spoilers tonight but unfortunately Romney spoiled himself in every swing state,” he laughed.

Another staffer who has worked on Republican campaigns told me as the night was winding down, “I wish the Republicans had us to blame for Romney’s loss.”

A hostile attitude toward the Romney campaign and the GOP permeated the party. There was ill will for the Democrats, too, but it didn’t appear as deeply rooted. The Johnson campaign had problems obtaining ballot access throughout the country, often because of slip-ups, and Republicans were right there waiting to pounce on their mistakes. The ill will harbored by the campaign seems more deeply placed in the lower levels of the operation, among volunteers and supporters, than in the upper echelons.

In the final month of the campaign, Johnson, ever the content libertarian warrior, expressed an attitude of indifference on the outcome of the election, even as Republicans kicked and screamed about him potentially spoiling the race for Romney. Last week in Ohio Johnson told Reason that he didn’t care about the outcome of the election if he didn’t finish on top.

One of Gary Johnson’s regional drivers and body men, Tom Mahon, was disappointed in the result for Johnson. He expected more but didn’t care that Romney lost.

"I am not surprised or disappointed that Romney lost but at the same time I am disappointed that Obama won, so, to me, it was a lose-lose election,” he said. "Romney alienated too many constituencies, from the Ron Paul Republicans to the Latino vote to women, the GOP seems to be on a constant track of becoming more socially conservative."

Some younger Johnson’s supporters in an outdoor smoking area near the hall didn’t even consider voting for Romney.

Ryan Kaszuba, 24, said Johnson was “the only candidate that speaks any sense whatsoever.”

Kate Ayala, 20, said Romney is someone that makes people despise the political process.

“Nothing has felt so right as to go against the flow and really be independent of the majority,” she said.

Crossposted at Hit & Run

Gary Johnson Concedes

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More November 7, 2012 01:07 AM

GarJo2012NM.jpgALBUQUERQUE – A tired and defiant Gary Johnson delivered a concession speech to supporters shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday night, whacking the major parties and hinting at a 2016 run in the process.

"A wasted vote is voting for somebody you don’t believe in and there were a lot of wasted votes tonight. There were more wasted votes tonight than I’ve ever seen,” said Johnson.

The Libertarian nominee took pot shots, again, at the idea that he played the role of spoiler in the 2012 election.

“We all should be proud of ourselves because over the next four years none of us are gonna have to say we are responsible for this. I didn’t vote for either one of ‘em, I voted for Gary Johnson,” he said.

All night long, Johnson staffers, including campaign manager Ron Nielson and communications director Joe Hunter, were pestering the press corps about the latest returns. The Johnson campaign did not have a war room for return watching so they set up their own spot at the very sparsely populated press table. Early on when Johnson was hovering around .4-.6 percent of the vote the Johnson campaign kept saying that their numbers would take off in the western portion of the country. They were right.

Johnson made Libertarian Party history last night. With 1,139,562 votes, he passed Ed Clark's 1980 record of 921,128 votes (as total percentage, he fell .06 percent short of Clark's record). But he wasn’t even around to celebrate the occasion. Shortly after speaking, an exhausted Johnson turned in for the night. Less than an hour later, he hit one percent.

As soon as results from the Mountain West started to trickle in Johnson’s percentage slowly crept up to the 1 percent mark.

Johnson staffers like Apollo Pazell, who appeared largely content with the trickle of votes, became increasingly antsy as Johnson closed in on single digits. Every fifteen minutes or so he came over to view the expanded national returns map I was viewing. After 10:35 p.m., Johnson topped the 1% mark for an extended period of time for the first time that night.

“Beating the record is a great success but you know we all expected to do better. I think Gary would be the first one to tell you that we expected to do better,” said Pazell, a veteran of the Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton campaigns.

Others, like Johnson's Ohio volunteer coodinator Debbie Dean, were more disapointed in the results "I felt that, for Ohio, at least we were going to be between three and five. It's a let down," she said.

Dean said the silver lining to Johnson getting one percent was that his campaign organized and networked Libertarians like neve before, plus the next generation of voters appears to be increasingly libertarian.

Near midnight, as the Johnson inner circle started to gather near the center of the empty hall that held Johnson’s party, Ron Nielson sounded optimistic going forward, noting that they’ve built a large nationwide organization that Johnson could tap into in 2016 if he were to run.

“It’s all about exceeding expectations and there’s an expectation there before of a watermark line, and we crossed that watermark line, well, we exceeded expectations,” said Nielson.

New Mexico Voters Like Gary Johnson, Vote For Obama Anyway

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More November 6, 2012 08:06 PM

ALBUQUERQUE—Not far from where Gary Johnson’s Election Night party will take place later tonight New Mexican voters were busy coming and going at the Duranes Elementary School. Nearly all of the voters I talked to had positive things to say about their still-popular former governor but all were nonetheless voting for President Barack Obama.

“Yeah I like him, I like him. I didn’t vote for him though I voted for Obama. I like Gary, I don’t think Gary had a chance. I didn’t want to throw my vote away,” said Roger C Blair, 68, and a stand-up comedian.

Blair said that he thought Johnson was pretty liberal for Republican.

“He wanted to legalize marijuana!” he said.

Juana Madrid, 65, said he voted for Obama because he voted for him last time and he “likes his ways even though he hasn’t had a chance to do many of things he wanted to do for the country.”

“He was OK, I didn’t vote for him, but he was OK,” said Madrid on Johnson’s time as governor.

Madrid’s wife, Connie, said she voted for Obama and didn’t like Johnson because of his position on drug legalization.

“Gary Johnson was OK, I can’t disagree with a lot of things he did but I am not one for legalizing marijuana,” she said.

“I didn’t want to waste a vote because I felt this was gonna be so close. As much as I like some of what Gary says,” said Steve Friese, 54, a teacher.

Prycosah Lueras, 27, a lifelong resident of New Mexico, said she didn’t even know Johnson was running or that he was governor.

Crossposted at Hit & Run

Live From New Mexico, It's Gary Johnson's Election Night Party!

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More November 6, 2012 07:40 PM

Welcome to my live blog of Gary Johnson's 2012 Election Night party. Johnson, the likely third place finisher, is aiming to obtain 5% of the vote but after talking to some of his staffers earlier today it appears they are now aiming for just above the Libertarian high-water mark of 1.06% of the vote, set by Ed Clark in 1980.

5:58pm : The hall where Johnson and supporters will gather at the Hotel Albuquerque is sparely filled as festivities here do not commence for another hour.

6:00pm: Johnson has arrived in the hall and is preparing for several media interviews before throughout the night. Johnson has shed his typical peace sign t-shirt and blazer for a suit and tie.

6:14pm - As results have trickled in Johnson was as high as .6% but is now at .4% of the popular vote.

6:40pm - Johnson is gathering with the Libertarians for a dinner before polls close here.

7:01pm - Johnson just topped .7% of the popular vote.

7:30pm - Johnson struggling again around .5-.6%

9:00pm - Johnson now hovering up around .9%, just short of that elusive 1%

9:23pm - Johnson now making the rounds in the hall.

9:46pm - Judge Jim Gray now taking the podium

9:52pm - Gray implores those present to convince Johnson to run again in 2016, says Johnson is the most qualified person to be president that ran.

9:54pm - Johnson takes the podium

10:04pm - Johnson speaks for approximately 8 minutes hints t running again in 2016. Says that "Over the next four years none of us will be able to say we are responsible for this (Obama's 2nd term)"

10:05pm - Still following results as they come here. At this point the returns are trickling in and most of you have probably turned in.

10:08pm - Alright folks we're calling it a night from here. More numbers will be available in the morning.

Richard Tisei's Shot At History

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More November 6, 2012 12:51 PM

RichardTisei.jpgRichard Tisei has a real shot at making history in the Sixth Congressional District. If he wins he'll not only salvage the dying breed of libertarian leaning northeast Republicans he'll be the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress. Democrats have tried to paint Tisei as some kind of Tea Party radial but they've largely been unsuccessful. He's pro-choice, supports marriage equality, isn't exactly a hawk on foreign policy, supports real drug policy reform, and in many ways is a squishy moderate.

Here's my profile of him from the November issue of Reason Magazine.

Richard Tisei is another GOP candidate looking to make history: He’d be the first openly gay Republican elected to Congress. Tisei, a longtime Massachusetts state senator and onetime lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, probably would have been better off running in the Tea Party wave election in 2010, but an ongoing family scandal involving his opponent, Rep. John Tierney, has made this campaign one of the most competitive congressional races in Massachusetts since the late 1990s.

Tisei supports gay marriage and gay rights, but like all of the candidates profiled here is focused overwhelmingly on economic issues. When talking with The Hill he described himself as a “live and let live Republican.”

“I consider myself a libertarian in a lot of ways,” he says. “I think the government should get out of your bedroom, off your back, and out of your wallet. That is, I think, the traditional northeast libertarian viewpoint.”

Even though he has not signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, Tisei has a track record of opposing tax increases and fighting for tax cuts. He led the charge in the Massachusetts state senate for years to lower the state income tax back to 5 percent after its scheduled rollback was halted at 5.3 percent in 2002. In 2010, while running for lieutenant governor, he did sign the Massachusetts equivalent of Norquist’s pledge.

As senate minority leader in Massachusetts, Tisei opposed legislation that banned smoking in newly legal casinos, though the law eventually passed after he left office. Though not campaigning on the drug war, Tisei supports medical marijuana and backed a successful 2008 state ballot initiative that decriminalized possession of small amounts. When asked his thoughts on full legalization Tisei said he was open to it. He also opposes portions of the PATRIOT Act.

The big mark against Tisei is that he supported Mitt Romney’s health care reform bill when it was before the Massachusetts state senate. He opposes ObamaCare, and would vote to repeal it, but still defends his vote for the state version of the individual mandate. “The RomneyCare bill was 70 pages long. The ObamaCare bill was 2,700 pages long. It creates a whole new generation of government commissions and departments and bureaucracy that we’ll never get rid of,” he explains.

Tisei is challenging embattled Rep. John Tierney, an eight-term incumbent. Tierney’s wife Patrice and her family are caught up in a federal investigation involving her brother’s illegal offshore gambling operation. The arrest and conviction of his wife on multiple counts of “aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns” for her brother’s offshore operation wounded Tierney’s re­election prospects in 2010, but he was still able to fend off inexperienced Tea Party Republican Bill Hudak, a Massachusetts attorney. The scandal died down before resurfacing as a major part of the 2012 campaign when one of Patrice’s brothers, Daniel Eremian, was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for his involvement in the operation.

The Cook Political Report has slowly but surely moved the race to its “toss-up” rating. Tisei has had stronger fundraising than Tierney in recent quarters and is clearly benefiting from the very negative press surrounding his opponent. The major wild cards for Tisei are the historically incompetent Massachusetts Republican Party and whatever boost Tierney will receive from having President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket.

Could Bruce Majors Secure Permanent Ballot Access For Libertarians In D.C.?

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More November 6, 2012 11:03 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Real estate agent (and Reason Foundation donor) Bruce Majors isn’t running to replace Eleanor Holmes Norton as D.C.'s non-voting delegate in congress just to get the Libertarian Party permanent ballot access in the District. The driving force for Major--who was active on the 1980 presidential campaign of Ed Clark--is actual frustration with Norton, a two-decade incumbent.

“She likes to talk about her defense of D.C. gay marriage against the Republican congress, which is nice. It’s also true that the Democrats controlled congress for two years and the presidency and the Senate and didn’t repeal DOMA,” he said.

Majors says he would submit a bill that would give the District the same status as Guam and Puerto Rico, effectively exempting Washington from federal income taxes in exchange for not having the rights of statehood.

Norton, a supporter of D.C. statehood, submitted this kind of legislation earlier in her career but has since stopped in favor of other kinds of statehood legislation. Majors thinks it would be even better to have this kind of legislation put to a district-wide referendum as a way to embarrass Washington’s political class.

“My position is it would be great to have no federal income tax. I think if you put it to the average voter in D.C., that is what they would pick,” he said.

Majors says he is unsure that he'll get enough votes from anti-Norton voters to get permanent ballot access for Libertarians, but is optimistic about the eclectic coalition he's cultivated since declaring his candidacy.

Full disclosure: Majors is a donor to the Reason Foundation.

Crossposted at Hit & Run

Gary Johnson's Closing Statement In Ohio

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More November 4, 2012 11:42 AM

GarJoStreetsboro.jpgSTREETSBORO, Ohio—Gary Johnson would like to win on Tuesday but if he’s not on top when all the votes are counted he doesn’t care who is.

In the closing days of his run for president, the Libertarian nominee has more than embraced the spoiler arguments he is bombarded with daily. It started when he was on his swing through northeast college campus. It accelerated at the Free and Equal debates in Chicago and in Boulder, Colorado on his final Mountain West tour. Now, here at the last stop on his fifth and final tour of the most crucial of 2012 swing states, he has reached the point where he is almost gleeful over being seen as throwing a giant monkey wrench into what happens on Election Day.

“Whichever candidate I make lose that would be terrific because that would open a debate and a discussion over the two parties and what really is the difference between the two: It’s not much., it’s really not much at all,” he said in an interview with reporters before going on stage.

“I just want to make it clear: more liberal than Obama when it comes to civil liberties and more conservative than Romney when it comes to dollars and cents. That said, I don’t care what happens, I really don’t,” he said.

Johnson has been under relentless attacks from conservatives for his candidacy because they claim his presence in the race will cost Mitt Romney the election. Comparisons have been made to Johnson’s run and Ralph Nader’s 2000 Green Party candidacy. Johnson doesn’t see it that way, arguing he takes equally from both candidates and in different states.

His closing argument is that President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have failed to address a series of issues, some more mainstream and others more important to libertarians.

Obama, Johnson says, is a great speaker and agrees with a lot of what he says but in practice he’s been a failure on things like the budget, foreign policy, and, in particular, the war on drugs.

“I never believed that he would balance the budget, I never believed that he would cut federal spending but he did say those things and he continues to say those things. I did believe him that when it came to war I thought that our military intervention would be scaled way back but he is as militaristic a president we have ever had. The military interventions right now are at an absolute high,” Johnson said.

Romney, he says, is a nice guy with a great business acumen but he’s just wrong on immigration and his ideas on the federal budget are detached from reality.

“Mitt Romney is a smart guy but with a straight face he says ‘we need to balance the federal budget, hold Medicare intact, and increase spending for the military. It doesn’t add up,” he said.

Most of these, in some way, could be solved or at least addressed if the Fair Tax was implemented, Johnson argues, yet that's something neither candidate even considers.

Johnson implored the 700-plus gathered to bring their friends to the polls and encouraged them to convince others that a vote for Romney or Obama is truly a wasted vote.

“Wasting your vote is voting for somebody you don’t believe in. Vote for the preson you believe in, that is how we change things in this country,” he said.

“If either Obama or Romney are elected we’re gonna find ourselves with a greater police state, we’re gonna find ourselves with a continued state of war, military interventions are gonna get just as bad if not even worse, and we’re going to find ourselves spending money in ways that are unsustainable that will ultimately lead to a monetary collapse if we don’t take control of it,” he said.

Johnson heads to Washington, D.C. tomorrow for a series of media appearances and to participate in the two final third party debates. He is spending Election Night at the official campaign party in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Crossposted at Reason's Hit & Run

Meet the Three Coloradans Who May Legalize Marijuana

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More November 4, 2012 11:24 AM

YesOn64Crew.jpgDENVER—The three left-leaning activists running the Yes on Amendment 64 campaign to legalize marijuana in Colorado always bring jackets to their poorly heated third floor digs. Victory is within their grasp and they only have one more week of toiling in the unassuming building that houses their historic two million dollar effort. The last effort to legalize marijuana in Colorado was such a shoestring operation that they ran it out of their own home and spent the majority of their campaign funds to qualify for the ballot. They failed. Now, the people of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol have the opportunity to radically reshape American drug policy in a way that was unimaginable over a decade ago, all while shivering about one mile from Coors Field.

Betty Aldworth, the campaign’s advocacy director, and Mason Tvert, the co-director of the campaign, have their own oddly shaped offices on one side of the floor. The awful bluish green shag carpet stares up at a rickety drop ceiling. Everyone can see everything on this side of the floor as the individual offices are divided by massive windows framed in pine. Tvert’s desk is so large that you can barely open the door to his office and you wonder how they ever managed to fit it in there. Brian Vicente, the other campaign co-director, has his own office adjacent to the campaign’s multi-purpose war room. Flanked by couches with jacket-clad volunteers making phone calls to potential supporters, it’s packed with professional looking campaign literature, and a press conference backdrop for TV appearances. There are no posters of pot or Bob Marley anywhere. This is a real operation, albeit a frequently chilly one.

The Field Director

Aldworth copes with the cold by wearing a long sweater-jacket in her office where low-profile filing cabinets are covered in pro-marijuana stickers. She’s worked on a variety of campaigns at the state and local level as well as with that national liberal organization MoveOn. This is her first campaign where she has worked on field operations and she is confident as they’re just wrapping up their canvassing operations. “We got really extensive and robust campus work that we’re doing, getting the vote on campus, with young people,” said Aldworth, noting that they’ve partnered with Students for Sensible Drug Policy to help out in this effort.

Even though they’ve identified who their typical supporters are by making phone calls and knocking on-doors—something unusual for a marijuana legalization initiative—she doesn’t think they have a clear idea of who their typical supporter is because, well, there isn’t one. “Young adult voters tend to be more supportive on this issue but I also talk to people in their 90s that actually remember the Volstead Act. They tell me, ‘alcohol prohibition failed and marijuana prohibiton is a similar failure and I am voting yes on amendment 64 because I see that,’” she said.

She is confident that their messaging on marijuana being similar to alcohol is resonating with such a huge swath of the electorate that they don’t really need to identify their typical voters. The “marijuana is just like alcohol and should be regulated as such” messaging they are employing is a purposeful effort to change the way people think about the plant.

The Journeyman

When I meet up with Tvert in his campaign office he has brought his dog to work because the animal is sick. Not only is his dog, Charlie, sick but there are also extra blankets in the laundry bin to keep him warm. For Tvert, an Arizona native, this campaign is something he’s been working toward since 2004 when he first started working on marijuana policy reform. In 2005 and 2007 he ran successful initiatives that decriminalized marijuana in Denver and made it the lowest priority for law enforcement in Denver, respectively.

In 2006 he headed up the first marijuana legalization campaign in Colorado. Tvert spent the majority of that campaign pulling all kinds of free media stunts because they had almost no financial resources after they got on the ballot. It was as much about winning as it was about starting the conversation about marijuana legalization. The 2006 effort, known as Amendment 44, did not contain any of the regulatory provisions that 64 does. Still, the 2006 experience was important for the marijuana reform movement because it provided them valuable statewide campaign experience; even more important, it got Colorado talking.

“At the time we ran that initiative with a desire to win but with the expectation of losing and the goal of inspiring public discussion about the issue that would move things forward,” Tvert said.

Not only is the electoral climate better in 2012 for a variety of reasons, but the campaign they’re running is light years ahead of what they attempted in 2006. They have seven paid staff members now instead of just three in 2006. They’re running a multi-platform advertising campaign worth upwards of, what they estimate, is about $1.5 million statewide. When Tvert first attempted this in 2006 they raised just over $200,000 and relied on eye-catching billboards in hopes of generating free media coverage. Even though they lost their free media plan worked in attracting attention. When Drug Czar John Walters visited Colorado they placed an ad on a billboard near where he was speaking with a big picture of him and a quote from him saying marijuana is “the safest thing in the world.” Thanks to this one time billboard expenditure, they received extensive media coverage.

“We didn’t want to have a debate about taxes, we didn’t want to have a debate about how it should be regulated, we wanted to have a debate about should adults be allowed to use a less harmful substance than alcohol and everything was geared around that message,” he said.

The ad campaign they are running now looks professional and that’s part of the reason Tvert is cautiously optimistic about winning on Election Day.

“I think we have a very good chance of winning but it’s definitely going to be a very close election,” Tvert said

The Lawyer

The cool doesn’t bother Vicente too much but that hasn’t stopped him from wearing both a long-sleeve plaid shirt and a long-sleeve thermal to the office when I interviwed him. Vicente has worked in marijuana reform for years, getting his start with the Marijuana Policy Project in the mid-2000s. His most recent electoral effort was the successful passage of an initiative to legalize marijuana in the Colorado ski town of Breckenridge. When he’s not agitating for the legalization of marijuana he’s busy working at his legal practice, Vicente Consulting, where he helps medical marijuana patients involved in legal cases.

He sees the 2012 effort as potentially groundbreaking for legalization advocates because not only are they close to winning but they have laid the groundwork for future states to follow. Part of the reason for this is that the medical marijuana system in place in Colorado helped guide them. Today there are an estimated 500 medical marijuana dispensaries throughout Colorado and the heavily regulated industry is booming statewide.

“It sets up a real framework for how it works instead of just legalizing an ounce and letting the system sort itself out,” he said.

The system Colorado put in place when it first legalized medical marijuana usage wasn’t perfect, but over time things smoothed out and now, he thinks, the state is the national model for marijuana reform. Previous efforts that lacked teeth and enforcement failed because there weren’t enough rules.

“We need strict regulations. This isn’t growing tomatoes or something, this is similar to producing beer,” he said.

Crossposted at Reason's Hit & Run

About the author

Garrett Quinn began writing for newspapers at age 17 with CNC in his native South Shore. He has been published in BlueMassGroup, RedMassGroup, Pioneer Investigates, and Wonkette. He is a More »

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