Jim Gray, the presiding judge of the Superior Court of Orange County, Calif., is running for U.S. vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket with presidential candidate Gary Johnson. The Chronicle’s Susanna Booth spoke to Gray about his party’s platform and his experience as a high-ranking judge.
The Chronicle: How did you become involved with the Libertarian party?
Jim Gray: I was a lifelong Republican until the passing of the Patriot Act. After the act passed, it took me 9.5 seconds to decide that I was a Libertarian. I will be a Libertarian for the rest of my life. We are financially responsible, as well as socially tolerant. We are the mainstream. We don’t have the millions of dollars that Democrats and Republicans have, but we do have ideas. Good government is easy. Watch.
TC: How do you think your experience will prepare you for the job of vice president?
JG: I have a lot of real world experience, as opposed to Paul Ryan and Joe Biden, who have been in government since the 1970s. If elected, I will be the first person in a national office who was in the Peace Corps. I have traveled to more countries than both Ryan and Biden—I have experience. For this election, I am the only candidate who has been in the military—I received a Combat Action Ribbon for my service. Furthermore, Gary Johnson is the most qualified person to run for president, and has had the most experience. And he’s a very open person. When he first asked me to run with him, he said, “Jim, throughout the campaign, if your ideas are different than mine, discuss them publicly. I want to get the right information.” Only three out of the six candidates running for national office have real world experience—two of them being myself and Gary Johnson.
TC: You’ve been really outspoken about your stance on drug legalization—could you tell me about your position and how you arrived at that stance?
JG: I was a former drug prosecutor and saw firsthand how we were churning people through the system. These drug charges are ruining people’s lives, and it costs the state so much money. There is an arrest in the United States every 23 seconds for drug charges. Why are we doing this? I’m going to ask you a question: What is easier for you to get as a minor under the age of 21—marijuana or alcohol? Marijuana, by far. It is plentiful. We need to regulate it and tax it.
In North Carolina, there is no quality control or regulation, which is highly unsafe. By taxing it, we could use the money to fix our roads and pay our firefighters and teachers. We are the only party with this stance. Obamney—they are the same. We would not go to war with Iran, and take troops out of places we don’t need. We need to bring troops home from Afghanistan now, among others. Sudan, Yemen—they are not security threats. We would bring our troops home, but we are not isolationist. We would bring 80 percent of our troops home.... Romney and Obama are the same. Romney is the architect of Obamacare.
Back to drug legalization—Obama wrote in his book that he has used marijuana. If he had been caught, his life would have been ruined. George W. Bush, Clinton, Obama—they have all admitted to using drugs. Where would we be if they had been caught?
TC: If elected vice president, would drug legalization be your first big project?
JG: No. The three big things that need tackling are the economy, jobs and education. I’ll start with the economy. The government borrows 43 cents on the dollar. We are Greece, but we don’t have Germany to bail us out. We have to be responsible. Our children’s generation is going to have to pay it back. I met a little three-year-old named Jake, and I said to him, “Jake, you’re bankrupt.” And Jake started crying. He didn’t know what bankrupt meant, but he knew that it was bad. It is bad.
We will submit a balanced budget in 2013 with 43 percent less spending. We will audit the federal government, and we will save money by closing foreign bases. We will listen to the military about what is necessary. As for jobs, listen to Obama and Romney. They have no idea how to create private sector jobs. We do. We will replace the income tax with a retail consumption tax. The U.S. has an artificial disadvantage with our income tax on goods—our goods have a competitive disadvantage.
We would level the playing field, by getting rid of this tax. Most countries would bring jobs back to the US—they would outsource their jobs here. Who would oppose this? The IRS and members of Congress. We will do this. This is exciting. We will get this done.
As for education, parents are in a better position to make decisions about their child’s education. Education is currently funded top-down. Parents have no say into where their education dollars are spent. We would institute a policy of school choice. I don’t care how, vouchers or what, but it would bring excellence in innovation to schools. It’s working in Milwaukee and New Orleans. Teachers will thrive. Good teachers will be sought out by the best schools, and poor teachers will be eliminated. This platform is exciting. When Gary Johnson called me and asked if I would run with him, I told him I would do it on one condition: “We run to win.” We have to be viable. People will crave the kind of government we are offering. This is most exciting thing to happen to me besides the birth of my children.
TC: I know that you are on the ballot in every state except Oklahoma and Michigan. What are you doing in those 48 states, and what are you doing about the remaining two?
JG: We expect to be on the ballot in all fifty states [by Election Day]. As for campaigning, our ads are spectacular. They are factual and truthful. We also have to get into the presidential debates to win the elections. Each vote is important—we must poll five percent in the election to show America that the Libertarian party is here to stay. We will become a three-party system. In the debates, we will make Romney and Obama discuss things they don’t want to talk about. Obama signed an act that is a direct frontal assault on our civil liberties, and he needs to talk about it. Our country is in trouble. Our soul is under attack by our government. Our government is turning us into a police state. You know about the problem with drones? We’re not going to fly drones unless there is a court warrant. This is an extremely important election, and we are the best for America. We will put in a coalition with people from all parties. We will give credit to anyone with a good idea. People will crave this. We run to win.