Friday, September 06, 2013

TOP STORY >> Here is a switch: Republican runs as a Democrat!

Leader staff writer

Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Bob Johnson of Jacksonville announced his candidacy Friday for the House Dist. 42 seat held by Mark Perry, a Democrat.

Johnson, 60, a Republican and a certified public accountant, is switching parties and running as a Democrat because, he said in his office, “It’s about the people we serve…There seem to be some personal agendas over the good of the people.”

Saying he disagrees with some Republicans on fiscal issues, Johnson noted that “some people tend to say no a lot to everything without turning around to see what it will do.”

Johnson, who described himself as being a moderate Republican in the past, continued, “I haven’t changed. I’m not going to be any different. I still plan on supporting Jacksonville.”

He said his ideology is closer to that of a conservative Democrat now that the political climate has shifted.

Johnson’s wife, Laurie, explained, “It’s not a strategy. He’s refusing to be an extremist.”

Johnson is running for the seat because he wants to improve education, especially by supporting an independent school district in Jacksonville, his hometown.

He said, “The better you make your state, the better your city is…This is where I am. This is my city. I love it as you all do.”

The JP noted that an independent school district is needed for Jacksonville to progress.

On a state level, Johnson said, “We need to make those dollars (spent on schools) work better…It’s not just here (in Jacksonville). Education statewide, we need to improve it and move it forward. Kids today learn different. We need to make school something kids want to do.”

Will Bond, who represented Jacksonville in the House for six years and has been Democratic Party chairman, congratulated Johnson on his announcement to run as a Democrat.

“I’ve known Bob Johnson for many years,” Bond said. “I consider him a good friend and know him to be dedicated to focusing on issues that are important to us all: creating jobs, continuing to strengthen education and continuing fiscal responsibility in balancing our state budget.”

Former Pulaski County Circuit Clerk Pat O’Brien, who attended Johnson’s announcement, is volunteering to support Johnson as his long-time friend’s campaign chairman.

O’Brien said Johnson “takes a very balanced approach, a very logical, reasonable approach.”

When Johnson was elected as the JP for Dist. 11 in 2005, the county had a $7 million deficit, O’Brien explained.

He said Johnson helped the quorum court make a $23 million turnaround during his eight years of service.

O’Brien added, in addition to Johnson being a leader of the quorum court, “He’s grinded it out. He’s done a very consistent job of governing.”

Perry, who is term-limited said, tongue-in-cheek, “I’m with you, baby,” when asked if he supports Johnson.

The candidate graduated from Jacksonville High School and earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Johnson graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with his master’s degree.

He worked in Fayetteville before opening his accounting office in Jacksonville.

Johnson has operated an office in his hometown since 1990.

He and his wife have five children — Baxter, Taylor, Aaron, Nick and Benjamin. The youngest attends Jacksonville Lighthouse Charter School on North First Street.

The JP for Dist. 12, Republican Karilyn Brown, is also running for state office. She is seeking the House Dist. 41 seat held by Jim Nickels, a Democrat, who is term-limited.