Two Johnsons, both military veterans, are vying for Kentucky’s 13th District seat in the General Assembly
The 100 Kentucky House seats are up for grabs in the November general election.
Republicans hold a supermajority in the House, but a newcomer to state politics hopes to return Daviess County’s 13th District seat to Democrats. He challenges the incumbent Republican president who knows very well that every vote counts.
The race features two Mr. Johnsons, both Owensboro military veterans. Republican State Rep. DJ Johnson is challenged by Democrat Michael Johnson who jumped into his black Ford truck last week and drove Highway 54 toward the Philpot community.
“My main purpose in releasing it today is just to meet people and introduce myself,” Johnson told WKU Public Radio. “I call it the sprint to the finish. That’s it.”
With campaign materials in hand, Johnson stopped to survey some homes on Countryside Dr. He estimates he’s knocked on a thousand doors in that neighborhood so far.
“It’s mostly working class issues that people talk about when I meet them,” Johnson explained. “It’s these kitchen table issues of life that they’re trying to figure out.”
13e The district includes the eastern half of Daviess County, including the towns of Owensboro and Philpot. The district primarily covered Owensboro only, but redistricting this year moved the district further into the county. Daviess County has more registered Democrats, but Michael Johnson says the race is more competitive since redistricting put more Republican voters in the district.
“I really have to do my homework and really work to win the Republican vote because some are changing, but there are independents as well,” Johnson said.
Michael Johnson is currently vice-chairman of the Owensboro Public Schools Board. Education is the most important issue for him. Endorsed by the Kentucky Education Association, Johnson wants more funding for education, universal pre-K and higher pay for teachers and child care workers.
He is also the leader of a local non-profit organization that serves low-income and homeless people, a retired naval officer, ordained minister and father of seven children.
He is challenging incumbent GOP State Rep. DJ Johnson, who was first elected to the seat in 2016, becoming the first Republican in a decade to win the 13th House District seat.
He lost his re-election bid in 2018 to Democrat Jim Glenn by one vote. Following a lengthy re-investigation and recount, Johnson finally walked away from his challenge and ran again in 2020, winning around 1,300 votes.
DJ Johnson feels fairly confident about his re-election chances, given redistricting and the statewide trend of Republicans outpacing Democrats in new voter registrations. However, given his loss of a vote four years ago, Johnson isn’t taking anything for granted. He knocked on doors last week along Hill Ave. in Owensboro.
“Hello sir. My name is DJ Johnson and I’m your state representative running for re-election in November,” Johnson told a landlord. “I don’t know if you know anything about me, but I usually shorten the conversation this way. I’m the conservative. I’m the Republican in the race. If that makes sense to you, I’d like your support. . If not, I understand.”
DJ Johnson is a former captain in the US Army whose main priority is defending the constitution. Although he agrees with his challenger on the need for a new judicial center and an increased domestic regime for Daviess County, he parts ways with Michael Johnson on more thorny issues such as the expansion of the game and school vouchers.
Abortion is another key difference between the two candidates for the 13th District seat. Rep. Johnson says he will vote for the constitutional amendment on the ballot that states the Kentucky Constitution does not guarantee any abortion rights.
“When there is conception there is a life created and I don’t give it any special rights over the mother or anyone else, but I think it is a life that should have the same rights than everyone else,” Johnson explained. “My position is that we must respect life, even life in the womb.
DJ Johnson says he doesn’t support exceptions other than to save the mother’s life. Democratic challenger Michael Johnson, an ordained minister, supports full abortion access.
“You can’t infringe on women’s reproductive rights,” Johnson said. “Abortion is a personal matter for women and we have no right to block it at the state level.”
Asked what he hopes to do in the state legislature that he hasn’t been able to do in previous terms, DJ Johnson said he’d like to see Kentucky’s tax modernization plan reach the finish line. The General Assembly is on track to lower the income tax rate slightly each year until the tax is eliminated, which it says would make Kentucky more competitive with neighboring Tennessee.
“I believe the best tax system for any state is a consumption tax as opposed to a productivity tax,” Johnson commented. “When you have a tax on income, it’s a tax on productivity. I would like to see that when you choose the things you want to buy, that’s when you pay the tax.
DJ Johnson and Michael Johnson will debate on October 24 in a forum at the Bluegrass Music Museum. Their final joint appearance will be Oct. 27 outside the Daviess County Courthouse for the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s Red, White and Blue event.
Then next month, Mr Johnson will go to Frankfurt. Voters in Kentucky’s 13th District will determine which Mr. Johnson.