Johnson in running to replace Republican with same name
By James Russell
Special to the TJP
Plano resident Sam Johnson, a Democrat, is running for an open congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, a Republican, also of Plano, who is not related.
But make no mistake. His candidacy is not a joke.
“It’s (not) like in that Eddie Murphy movie The Distinguished Gentleman,” the Jewish Democrat said, referring to the 1992 movie about a con artist played by Murphy who succeeds a recently deceased congressman of the same name for financial gain.
“It’s not a joke. As people have gotten to know me they see I am qualified,” he said.
The Democrat lives in his hometown with his wife Amber and three sons. He has been there most of his life, noting the only exceptions were attending the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied government, and South Texas College of Law in Houston.
“Plano is home to me,” he said.
Like many Democrats, the election of Republican President Donald Trump in November 2016, propelled him to consider running for office. After the longtime Republican incumbent decided to retire, he jumped in.
Running against an incumbent, much less a popular incumbent in a solidly Republican district, would have been tough.
With Republicans in control of both Congress and the White House, the business lawyer worries Congress is not serving as a check and balance on the executive branch. Congress, after multiple unsuccessful attempts, backed away from repealing the Affordable Care Act. Now they are pursuing a major overhaul of the tax code, which Democrats oppose.
“It’s just terrible and reaching into all facets of people’s lives. Voters are also worried about rising insurance premiums and possibly not having coverage,” he said.
His other interests include voting rights, gerrymandering and money’s influence in politics. Voting rights are a vital measure of a healthy democracy. He is for a single-payer health care system, a public insurance system commonly referred to as Medicare For All. It was popular among progressive Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who caucuses with Democrats. But for now he is interested in reining in health insurance companies’ convoluted contracts. The power of pharmaceutical companies worries him, too.
He does not oppose the recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“But it seems like the administration did not take into account the possible consequences of doing so,” he said.
He’s talking primarily to Democrats given he still faces a primary challenge, and needs a majority of Democratic votes to become the party’s nominee. But he will knock at anyone’s door, and has found himself talking to frustrated independents and Republicans too.
“They see a moral vacuum in Washington. They are interested in talking to us because they are unsure about their Republican identity. They are considering voting for a Democrat for the first time.”
His Jewish upbringing influences his commitment to service.
“Judaism is a service-oriented religion. You are taught to participate. (It is) where I get my desire for public service,” he said, including that he is on the regional board of the Anti-Defamation League. “I’ve carried my leadership skills throughout my life through BBYO.”
When he is not campaigning, he serves as counsel to startup businesses. He is involved with the ADL, lobbying in both in Austin and Washington. He is the most qualified of his primary opponents.
“Right now, regardless of your political, religious or socioeconomic identity, there is one concern: There is more of a willingness to be harmful and not helpful,” he said.
He hopes to change the attitude of Congress, and hopefully influence the country too. But he first needs to win his primary. Filing to appear on the March 6 ballot ended Monday, Dec. 11. As of press time, he faces Lorie Burch, Adam Bell and Medrick Yhap.
Republican State Senator Van Taylor of Plano is running against David Niederkorn and Alex Donkervoet. The general election is Nov. 6, 2018.