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Exclusive: Interview with senatorial candidate Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson
Heather Johnson

2014 is an election year in Minnesota, and is sitting down with some of the candidates for key races so that the voters will be able to make informed decisions. The next in this series is a phone interview with senatorial candidate Heather Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee.

Johnson has been involved with the Libertarian Party leadership on a number of committees, and is the secretary of the state party. She was also heavily involved in college politics, sitting on several committees there as well. She is currently a student at Hamline University where she is working toward her BFA.

We spoke with Johnson regarding her run for the United States Senate.

Why are you running for office?

I have a hard time with the current system, like a lot of libertarians. I was asked by the libertarian party and its membership to run. I think I am unconventional, I am not a very traditional politician, but their points about reaching a broader audience and a desire to have more liberty, to fight crony capitalism and corruption in DC really reached me. I agreed to do it because I represent principles, not my own interests.

What are your qualifications?

I believe that political office should become simple enough that people can hold it and represent the people’s interests. I have been the secretary for the state party, I have a lot of experience sitting on committees. I was in the student senate in college and I worked with the MSCSA (Minnesota State College Student Association). I was on the committees for policies and procedures, bylaws, constitution, legislative analysis, and the elections committee. I am the secretary of the state party and served on several committees, including bylaws and legislative analysis.

Third party candidates have a reputation for being spoilers for the two major parties. Do you agree with this assessment?

No I don’t agree with that because nobody is entitled to votes. The republicans and democrats have this attitude that they are entitled to votes, and to win elections. We’ve seen as recently as 2013 that they didn’t even pull the majority of eligible voters, most didn’t bother to vote. They misrepresent the idea of “we the people.” No one is entitled to votes, they have to earn them. The idea they have with the two parties is that people are voting against something. With third party candidates people are voting for something, they are choosing to vote for something they want.

Why do you think that you have a better chance than past third party candidates?

I think we are at a point in history where a lot of different groups are seeing their personal rights violated. People from different sexual orientations, men, women, all different ethnicities, they’re all fighting some aspect of the system. Everyone is feeling government intrusion and infringement of their rights in some way. It’s definitely a time to challenge that in politics. I think this will only grow in the next few years or so.

Same-sex marriage appears to be heading toward legalization in most states.

I believe that government has no place in marriage period. It is a contract between two people. Why does the government get involved? So they can charge a licensing fee, or give tax benefits to married people that single people don’t get. I think the government should only get involved in the judicial system when there is a dispute, fraud, or coercion. They can mediate, there really should be no government involvement besides that. In other words, it shouldn’t even be an issue, it should be up to the individuals involved with no government one way or the other.

If elected, how will you ensure that the LGBTQ community will gain equal rights?

That is something I would advocate in DC. I would oppose legislation that infringes on rights and I would support legislation that recognizes those rights. I believe that those rights are already provided; we’re all created with inalienable rights. I would speak out on these rights while in DC.

What is your opinion on oil fracking?

Here in Minnesota, Enbridge wanted to lay an oil line. I testified yesterday at a hearing about whether the public utilities commission would examine alternate routes and systems for their application for the permit. I spoke about how part of their plan would cross indigenous lands provided in the 1855 treaty. I supported the land rights, and spoke about having the route exclude indigenous territories and other land where there are land use rights. Government should not use eminent domain for private companies’ benefit. Businesses have a right to do business, but they should take the risk and responsibilities for how their business functions, the impact on the environment and the people around them. They should legally acquire the land in voluntary exchanges. If they are using public lands they should contract with the government. Safety and cleanup of any spills should be their responsibility, that should apply to oil or fracking or any business. There should be no risk taken by the people, their land rights should not be up for grabs for a private company’s benefit.

Do you support an increase in alternative forms of energy, including green energy such as solar and wind?

Yes. I don’t know how much the public is aware how much the government has limited alternative energy through legislation, and given tax breaks for oil or car production for gas guzzlers. In the early 2000s SUVs were given tax breaks and fuel efficient cars were penalized. That’s discrimination and a misuse of power. We should utilise any and all forms of energy and let business conduct business, as long as they are responsible for impact and any potential problems.

If so, how would you support them if elected? If not, why not?

I don’t think the government should be involved except in judicial disputes like coercion, fraud or knowingly being unsafe, just like anybody else. Businesses have a right to conduct business and be responsible and take the risk. I would oppose any legislation that allows businesses to use the government for their own personal gain in any form that it takes. I would oppose legislation that infringes on the rights to conduct business and compete, whether they are competing in the same industry or competing outside of their industry.

Do you support the legalization of marijuana?

Not only would I support the legalization of marijuana, I would support any legislation that would decriminalize it. People who are in prison for marijuana would be released and have their records expunged. Obviously if they harmed somebody in a drug crime they would still need to pay for that, but the marijuana offenses would not hold.

Do you have any any lasting concerns about the regulatory and safety of marijuana?

Some people are calling for it to be legalized and regulated so it can be taxed. I have concerns about the FDA being involved in pharmaceuticals, if people are harmed you never see any reparations or repairs. Legalization would create jobs and boost the economy. I’m not in favor of excessive regulation of any business, let people vote with their dollars.

What is your opinion on gun rights? Would you support any further gun control legislation, or the repeal of any existing laws? If not, how would you attempt to prevent tragedies such as the Aurora theater shooting?

I fully support the Second Amendment as it is written, and that people have the right to rebel against a tyrannical government and should have a means to do it in the event that our government becomes too tyrannical. The idea that people could hold the government accountable and on an equal standing with themselves is something that’s important to preserve. With these school shootings and crimes with guns there is a lot of emotional pressure on legislators to alter gun rights and ban guns. I’m a mother, I have two kids, so I identify and empathize with the desire to protect children. But people are focusing on the tool, if they take that tool away people will find another way to harm each other. We need to treat the causes and symptoms of these shooting. Mental illness, whether it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain or bad social interactions and relationships, needs to have a dialogue to focus on that. It’s disingenuous to take rights away from law abiding people without fixing the causes.

What, if anything, will you do in order to make the Affordable Care Act more palatable to your constituents?

In Minnesota we had two programs, Medical Assistance and a program called Minnesotacare. It was a sliding scale system based on income, and it was 93 percent effective for the poor or anybody who needed it. Once the ACA was introduced it got more expensive, particularly for vulnerable adults. They’re not receiving the treatments and medications they were prescribed because ACA representatives said they didn’t need them, even when their doctors said they did. I believe the doctors over the ACA representatives. We already had a system here in Minnesota that was effective and paid for by the taxpayers.

Do you support school choice in the form of vouchers?

I do support school choice. Common Core was pushed through by unelected bodies and businesses, not in the legislation in accordance with our constitution. Not only was it unconstitutional, but it was underhanded. It was not led by parents and educators, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think that parents and educators working together know better how their children learn. Educators who see these kids everyday should have a say in how they teach, not be given a curriculum and told that’s how they’re going to teach. I’ve been around the state and seen the private schools, they are flexible and have a variety of models, while including the curriculum that those educators developed directly. I have actually toured, public, charter schools, and private schools - finding that private schools are more flexible in how they teach using a variety of different models to fit the class.

Do you support an increase in the minimum wage?

No, I do not support an increase in the minimum wage. That is a temporary solution to a long term problem. Government and crony capitalism manipulation of the market have done more harm than good. The free market should be a voluntary interaction between businesses and consumers, something is exchanged for something they need. Items, goods, services, could be money, bitcoins; there is so much room for choice in a consumer driven market. Look at utilities, they have a near monopoly and they can dictate price instead of a voluntary model where everybody has a say.

How would you handle the current immigration crisis?

I would tell the truth about the problem. A lot of this is being pushed by human trafficking, it’s of international interest. We’ve got America in Mexico and in Central America, and part of it is through our war on drugs. Its not widely known that our government has supplied assault weapons to the cartels and police forces that are murdering people in these nations. We need to address our part in this by not engaging in this issue. I would support Americans adopting or fostering people as they see fit, and people who are here who want to return home should. Our current policies apply to some but not to others, they should apply to everyone equally. We should do away with our current policies, or reform them so that they serve everybody equally under the law.

Do you have anything else you’d like to add?

I’m really hoping to get my message out there. I believe the dialogue should change to solving problems instead of demonizing challengers, our leaders do that. That’s the one thing I’m trying to do with my work.

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