Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has picked California Judge Jim Gray, a prominent pro-marijuana legalization advocate, to be his running mate, The Daily Caller has learned.
The decision to run with Gray “puts pot front-and-center in the campaign,” one Johnson adviser told TheDC, before adding that Johnson’s opposition to the war in Afghanistan will likely remain the campaign’s defining issue.
According to the biography on his website, Gray “currently presides over the civil trial calendar for the Superior Court of Orange County.” Gray previously served in the Peace Corps, was an attorney in the Navy JAG Corps, and prosecuted cases in the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s Office. He ran as a Libertarian against California Democratic Sen. Barbra Boxer in 2004.
Other possible choices for Johnson’s running mate included Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News fixture, and former California Rep. Barry Goldwater, Jr.
Both turned the position down, as did Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson.
“Gary had liked him from the very beginning,” the Johnson adviser said. “Every time we would bring up somebody else, Gov. Johnson would say ‘what about Jim Gray?’ He was Johnson’s favorite from the beginning.”
Gray was a conservative Republican who later became a Libertarian after deciding that the nation’s drug laws did more harm than good. He is the author of several books about law, politics and the drug war, and helped spearhead Proposition 19 in California, which would have decriminalized marijuana in the Golden State had it passed.
“I was a drug warrior until I saw what was happening in my own courtroom,” Gray said in 2010. (RELATED: Gary Johnson: Lower the drinking age!)
Should they secure the Libertarian Party nomination, Johnson and Gray will be on the ballot in at least 49 states. A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed Johnson with 15 percent support in his home state of New Mexico in a match-up against President Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
If Johnson can win five percent of the vote nationwide in 2012, the Libertarian Party’s candidate in the 2016 general election will be entitled to $90 million in federal funding, the Johnson adviser told TheDC.
Johnson, who originally ran as a Republican candidate for president, is now considered the front-runner for the Libertarian Party nomination. The struggling third party will formally pick its nominee for president and vice president at a Las Vegas convention this week.
WATCH: Jim Gray on drug prohibition