Interview: Judge Jim Gray on Gary Johnson, Ron Paul and 2016

Judge Jim Gray

In 2012, Judge Jim Gray won more votes for Vice-President than any other Libertarian in history. As Governor Gary Johnson’s running mate, Gray tirelessly criss-crossed America while representing the party’s ticket.  He spoke at rallies and did countless media interviews.

Prior to that campaign, Judge Gray was a trial court judge of the Superior Court of Orange County, California and a 2004 Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate.

He has been an outspoken critic of the government’s war on drugs, authoring the book “Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs” in 2001.

Earlier today, Judge Gray was kind enough to answer a few questions for Uncovered Politics. In this Q&A we discuss the 2014 and 2016 elections, Ron Paul, California’s top two primary system and several other topics.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Are there any Libertarian campaigns that you have been paying special attention this year?

JUDGE JIM GRAY: In my travels and readings I have found that we have increasingly large numbers of truly experienced and qualified candidates all around the country. So, I continue to offer to help those candidates.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: As you know, the Libertarian Party was successful at electing several state legislators in Alaska during the 1980s. During most of the 1990s, there were at least 2 — and at one point 4 — Libertarians serving in the New Hampshire state house.

It has now been more than a decade since a Libertarian has been elected to any state’s legislature. Do you see this changing? What can the party do to get back into the business of electing legislators?

JUDGE JIM GRAY: Stay tuned! More and more people are seeing that so-called conservatives and so-called liberals in office simply make the situation worse. The people are rightfully becoming disillusioned with the main two parties (especially young people between 16 and 28). Thus, if we continue to find and support good candidates for state offices, I think even Libertarians will be surprised at how successful we start to become.


Jim Gray speaks at a rally in 2012

Judge Jim Gray speaks at a rally in 2012

AUSTIN CASSIDY: Actually running for office is tough work, and most Libertarian candidates tend to be political novices. What are some common recurring mistakes you see LP candidates make during their campaigns?

JUDGE JIM GRAY: We need to remember that we are a political party, and not a political debating society. We should be practical in our approaches. Of course, we will never compromise our principles, but I believe we do better by moving our great country in the direction of liberty and the free market incrementally.

This is summarized by the slogan not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: The failed drug war has always been a key issue of yours. We seem to be on the path to regulating marijuana like beer and wine within the next 10 or 15 years. Are you concerned that some voters might turn away from the LP once marijuana legalization is no longer a hot topic of debate?

JUDGE JIM GRAY: No. First of all, I believe that federal marijuana prohibition will be a thing of the past within three years from now. Then each state will be at liberty to adopt programs that best serve and protect their own states. (Of course the perceptive ones will regulate and control marijuana sale, use and possession for adults!)

If we Libertarians are not able to show the voting public that this is and has always been our issue, we will be truly missing a great opportunity. We should openly take credit for this success, and then we should show people how we are on the right side of so many other issues as well.

So, far from losing voters’ attention, we should be able to more strongly attract it.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: What are your feelings about Ron Paul and his son Rand? Are they helping to introduce people to the concept of libertarianism, or are they stunting the Libertarian Party’s growth by keeping liberty-minded voters trapped within the GOP?

JUDGE JIM GRAY: I favor anyone and everyone, from whatever party or affiliation, to speak about and pursue our common issues of liberty and libertarianism.

Ron Paul was and is a hero who not only stood for Libertarian principles, he put them into practice as shown by his voting record. I also applaud his son Rand, who is perceived as being more moderate in some of his approaches, and that both helped get him elected and gives him a broader pulpit. However, I cannot conceive that Rand Paul will get the Republican nomination for president. Remember what they transparently did to his father in Tampa Bay in 2012?

As a final thought, we Libertarians have really been deficient by failing to show everyone that we are classic liberals. As Governor Johnson says, when it comes to our civil liberties and our freedoms from government snooping and intervention, we are flaming liberals.

We should appeal even more to so-called liberal Democrats than we do to so-called conservative Republicans.

The 2012 running mates remain in “constant” contact.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Have you remained in close contact with Governor Johnson since the last election?

JUDGE JIM GRAY: The Governor and I are in constant contact, and I still firmly believe that he is the most qualified person to be president that I know of. So I remain fully committed to his election.

As a side note, since the election I have really seen his competitive nature. Yes, he decided to climb the highest peaks on each of the seven continents – and he only has the one in Antarctica left to go – and he is a marathon runner and 200-mile bicycle racer, but I have said to him publicly and privately that I can take him in ping pong.

When he was with us for a weekend recently, he simply had to play me.

So far, I am undefeated.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: During the final weeks of the last campaign, it was reported that you told a crowd at Tulane University that you and Governor Johnson were already planning another run in 2016. Is that still your hope?

JUDGE JIM GRAY: That is not quite accurate. Although I do not remember precisely this particular comment, I unfailingly tell people that I will do my best to encourage Governor Johnson to run for President again in 2016, and if he asks me to be his running mate, I would remain honored to do so.

If he can find someone who has more media exposure, glamour or access to funding, or someone who can be of better help to his campaign, go with that person. I will still do everything I can to support him.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: In the event that Governor Johnson decides not to run again, would you consider mounting a Presidential campaign?

JUDGE JIM GRAY: I really have not thought about that. Governor Johnson is so far above all other candidates, due to his proven experience, intelligence and caring, and lack of ego, that I am concentrating only upon the possibility of his election.


AUSTIN CASSIDY: Finally, as someone who has run for statewide office as a Libertarian in California, what is your opinion of the new top-two primary system?

JUDGE JIM GRAY: I was not in favor of its passage, but it is actually growing on me.

It was billed as nudging all candidates into the more moderate center, and I think that is working to some degree. As a practical matter, if we keep getting the same results in elections as we have in the past, it simply would see us losing in the primaries instead of losing in the general elections. However, if we continue to make progress by having people see that Libertarian candidates are right on the money on so many of the issues they care about, we will soon become one of the two candidates on those general election ballots.

In today’s political world, that almost assures eventual victory. I still do not see Republicans voting for Democrats, or vice versa. They would rather vote for Libertarians and they would be right to do so!


  1. Darcy Richardson says:

    Great interview, Austin. Gary Johnson would be hard-pressed to find a running mate as experienced, reasonable, and grounded as Judge Gray.

  2. Voting libertarian

  3. Just a thought, what about Bob Barr for a running mate? It would balance out the ticket as having a chief executive with a legislator, and Barr ran for president as a libertarian before, and then Gray could serve as Attorney General. I don’t know what kind of fundraising ability Barr has, but it’s just a thought.

  4. Pingback: Gary Johnson: I’d Like to Run for President Again

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