Under normal circumstances it would be fair to assume I would support the Republican nominee for President. This election, however, is far from normal, and the nominee of the party is not a man I can support in good conscience.
In 1980, I spent the night of my 10th birthday watching Ronald Reagan accept the Republican Party nomination for President. I considered myself a Republican ever since. In the years that followed, I cast my first Presidential vote ever for George H.W. Bush and I voted for a Republican in every national and state election ever since. In 2002, I was elected as a Republican member of the Florida Legislature at the same time that Jeb Bush was re-elected to his second term as Florida’s Governor. I was heavily involved as a member of the Republican legal team in every election from 2004 onward, chairing the Miami-Dade team during the 2008 Presidential Election.
While I will not be supporting our Republican nominee, I am not willing to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton. I share little, if any, values with Donald Trump, but I share even fewer with the former secretary of state.
Fortunately, there is another choice. Americans of Latino heritage in this country are not being forced to pick between the lesser of two evils. We can and should support candidates we believe in. For me, these candidates are Gary Johnson and William Weld, former governors of New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively. Two former Republican Governors who represent the values that made me a Republican in the first place. Governors Johnson and Weld have not just talked about making America great, they have delivered.
For Governors Johnson and Weld, we in the Latino community are more than just political pawns in a game of electoral chess. They both have significant records of accomplishment that Latinos can be proud of.
Recent immigrants to this country are among the first to be hurt by an economic down turn. Both Governors Johnson and Weld were recognized nationally for turning around the economies of their states. They did that as Republican Governors of states with overwhelming Democrat legislatures, successfully working across party lines to create jobs.
Both Johnson and Weld recognize how critical education is to immigrant communities. Both focused on reforming education to allow parents with lower incomes better opportunities to select a high-performing school for their children through voucher programs and charter schools.
Indeed, to help improve the quality of education, Governor Weld appointed the first Latina member of a governor’s cabinet, when he named Piedad Robertson as Secretary of Education.
Unlike Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson served as a Governor of a border state. And contrary to the politically opportunistic positions taken by both Trump and Clinton, Governor Johnson has been consistent in his support for practical immigration reform since his tenure as Governor of New Mexico.
Governor Johnson understands that our immigration policy should be guided by the best of our American values, not the worst of our politics. He long advocated a simplified and secure system of work visas making it easier to legally enter the U.S. Such a system will provide the greatest security possible, allowing law enforcement to focus its time and resources on the criminals and bad actors who are today entering the country illegally.
When it comes to criminal justice reform, an issue of critical importance to Latino families, Governor Johnson has also been a national leader. In 1999, Gary Johnson became the highest-ranking elected officials in the US to advocate the legalization of marijuana, and he has urged the nation to treat drug abuse as a health issue, not as a criminal issue.
There has been a 400% increase in the number of Latinos that have been arrested for non-violent drug offenses in the last few years – most of them for possession rather than distribution. Once they have a criminal record, even a non-violent one, in many states, these individuals are denied the chance to get a license to practice careers like nursing, or barbering or driving a truck. Governor Johnson is committed to reforming our criminal justice system and giving our young people and families a second chance at the American dream.
While the Trump campaign will say that these positions are liberal, they are wrong. Johnson’s reform will not only reduce the size of government, it will save money. His immigration policies are based on free market ideals that are missing from the Republican nominee’s agenda. Conversely, the Clinton campaign will try to claim that she is the best suited to deliver these reforms. They too are wrong as Clinton is a polarizing figure that will not be able to work with Republicans in Congress. Only Johnson and Weld will be able to secure enough votes in the Senate from moderates in each party to help pass these common sense reforms that will reduce the size of government while improving our economy and lives of Latinos in our Country.
There will be those among our community – and the country at large – that will say a vote for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld is a wasted vote. They are wrong. The only wasted vote is on a candidate who isn’t worthy of your support. As Governor Johnson continues to gain support, his appearance in the debates would be a game changer that will spread their message far and wide.
Governors Johnson and Weld have certainly earned the support from the Hispanic-American community not only because of their record of accomplishment, but because of their positive vision for the future and economically conservative ideas. I urge Latino voters, who know deep in their heart that both Trump and Hillary will not fix our nation’s problem, to give Gary Johnson and Bill Weld a second look.
Juan-Carlos “J.C.” Planas was a Florida State Representative from 2002 to 2010 and is currently co-chair of Tercera Opcion.