] He entered politics for the first time by running for Governor of New Mexico in 1994 on a fiscally conservative, low-tax, anti-crime platform. Johnson won the Republican Party of New Mexico's gubernatorial nomination
, and defeated incumbent Democratic governor Bruce King by 50% to 40%. During his tenure as governor, Johnson became known for his low-tax libertarian views, adhering to stringent policies of tax and bureaucracy reduction ostensibly driven by a cost–benefit analysis rationale. He cut the 10% annual growth in the budget: in part, due to his use of the gubernatorial veto 200 times during his first six months in office. Johnson set state and national records for his use of veto and line-item veto powers: estimated to have been more than the other 49 contemporary governors put together, which gained him the nicknames "Veto Johnson" and "Governor Veto".
Johnson sought re-election in 1998, winning by 55% to 45%. In his second term, he concentrated on the issue of school voucher reforms, as well as campaigning for cannabis decriminalization and legalization