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At Gary Johnson rally, celebration over relative success of Libertarian candidate

While most of the nation was coming to terms with the outcome of a presidential race that many had predicted would go the opposite way, the mood was relaxed at the headquarters of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson on Election Night.

Trays of champagne glasses were whisked by as a conga line, led by a giant cutout of Johnson’s head, formed and made a circuit around the room at Hotel Albuquerque.

Around 7:30 p.m., Libertarian vice-presidential candidate Bill Weld came, shook hands and took photos with children.

The room, with a capacity of 900, was certainly not bursting.

There were long-term Johnson supporters like Deborah Geoffori, who voted for Johnson in 2012.

“I think Johnson has a chance of hitting that five percent, and that at some point in our country someone does and we shake up the status quo a little bit,” she said.

There were brand new supporters on the Johnson train, like Terry Kirkland, who decided to support the candidate two days ago.

“I think a person should have experience,” he said. “Hollywood is a wonderful thing, but it probably ought to stay in Hollywood, and I personally believe Hillary Clinton has already been president twice. I don’t think she should have run for a third term.”

There were dedicated supporters like Hollie Williams, who spent five hours on Election Day campaigning.

“We’ve had so many bad things going on. We’ve had criminal acts, we’ve had people calling names,” she said. “Gary Johnson has stayed out of that. He’s really been focused on the issues.”

Sarah Arellano had been a moderate Republican who decided to vote for the Johnson/Weld ticket this election. She said she felt welcomed by the Libertarian party.

“People are so open. You don’t have to fit a specific mold here. Like in the Republican Party you have to be like, ‘I’m a true Republican,’” she said.

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There were a few stray Democrats as well.

“We kind of just stumbled in here,” said Joe Archuleta. “We’re supporters of the election, but we thought this was the Democratic Party.”

Nicholas Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian National Committee, said he is happy with how Johnson’s campaign went.

“I think we’re fit to blow the doors off of any national vote total, and with the numbers we’re seeing in New Mexico I think we’re going to be a major party in New Mexico by tomorrow,” he said. “The old parties are going to have to recognize that if they don’t deal with these issues, like the militarization of the police and the war on drugs and our foreign interventions overseas and our national debt, then they’re going to keep losing elections.”

Johnson has said he doesn’t plan to run for national office again in the future.

“This is the best result in Libertarian history, so if he wants to go out on a high note, that’s totally fine,” Sarwark said. “He’s done tons of work and he deserves it.”

All of Johnson’s staff were invited to the stage for recognition of the work they did on the campaign, and were each given commemorative plates.

Weld said that when he was a Republican, he felt like part of an organization, but as a Libertarian he feels like part of a movement.

He placed some of the blame for Johnson’s loss on the Commission on Presidential Debates, saying that the commission is not nonpartisan and should lose its tax-exempt status.

He also compared Johnson to Abraham Lincoln, and said he expects the Republican Party to split in the future, allowing Libertarians the opportunity to take some of their base.

But Weld’s speech was predominantly optimistic.

“I can’t wait to get back to Washington and speak truth to power,” Weld said.

In his concession speech, Johnson wished luck to whoever wins in the election in uniting the country moving forward. By night’s end, that turned out to be Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.

Johnson told his supporters to hold their heads high, because in five years they’ll remember that they voted their conscience.

“We weren’t in the presidential debates, and that sucks,” he said.

Still, he said the party was a celebration and the start of a rejuvenated Libertarian movement. By 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Johnson managed to earn more votes than he did in the 2012 election.

Sarwark closed the evening with a speech, saying the Libertarian Party has experienced more success this year than in nearly half a century.

“There’s going to be a lot of old party politicians whining and crying tomorrow about all the votes they should have had. Well you know what I say to that? Your tears are delicious and your parties will die,” he said.

Johnson supporters were surprised by Trump’s success, as was much of the nation.

“I think it’s kind of crazy that Trump’s ahead right now,” said Kelly Miller, a Johnson supporter. “It’s kind of shocking.”

Johnson echoed that sentiment, as it became more evident as the night went on and more and more states were projected to represent victories for Trump.

“Amazing,” Johnson said. “I can’t believe that Trump is going to win.”

Cathy Cook is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @Cathy_Daily.

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