Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson spoke to an appreciative crowd at the annual CPAC conference on Thursday, calling himself a "fierce defender of competition and a fierce defender of civil rights."
Johnson, who has declared he is running for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination, regaled the generally conservative crowd with his record as New Mexico governor, noting that he "never raised taxes, not once" in eight years, and that he "probably vetoed more bills than the governors of the other 49 states combined."
Johnson noted that he would seek the Libertarian nomination for a second time at the Party's May convention. He was careful to say that a third-party vote is not a wasted one.
"Wasting your vote," he said, "is voting for somebody you don't believe in."
Johnson said the most important thing the crowd of conservative activists could do for his campaign was to "get me in the presidential debates."
Libertarian presidential candidates have never participated in the general election debates.
Johnson told AMI Newswire the Libertarian Party will be on "all 50 state ballots in November," an increase from 48 when he ran in 2012, garnering about 1 percent of the popular vote.
"We couldn't get on the ballot in places like Michigan because of me, because I originally ran as a Republican and dropped out," he said. "Sore-loser laws wouldn't allow me to get on those other ballots, but we will this year."
The Party had write-in status in 2012's presidential race, but was not included on the Oklahoma ballot.
"Oklahoma is the toughest in the nation to get on," Johnson said.
Johnson also told AMI Newswire he thinks his chances are good of winning the nomination in the crowded, 11-person Libertarian Party field.
"I'm not going to talk down anybody who is running," he said. "I even met [former security-software executive] John McAfee," Johnson said. "He's a great guy who promised there would be no negative campaigning.
"He even told me, 'Gary, I'll vote for you if you're the nominee.'"