Jeff Johnson is a really nice guy and has been a reliable Republican vote as a Legislator. His service helping others uncover the depths of fiscal mismanagement at the MNGOP is admirable. He has also done good work – even if a bit too corny to be taken seriously – as the lone center right vote on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners.
All that being said, he is not the best candidate Republicans can put forth to face Mark Dayton and the Democrats. I remember back to the 2012 Republican State Convention and the “Get Over It Speech”. Clearly pandering to the majority of Liberty Delegates and laying the ground work for this Governor campaign.
He has been far from a Liberal Republican you couldn’t count on, but he has also not exactly been a Libertarian stalwart, something I figured this coalition would figure out quickly. After all, they have disqualified some good candidates over a single vote in the past.
Like most candidates who have held public office before, Johnson has a voting record. As a member of the Legislator, he took some tough votes in favor on Tim Pawlenty’s budgets that included spending increases as well as “fees” as well as ‘yeah’s’ some pretty ugly bonding bills.
The new Jeff Johnson sounds great. Electable conservative. Build bridges amongst the various coalition of the party. Don’t be too ideological to alienate that oh so fickle purple GOP block from CD3 and the business community that backed closet liberal Tom Horner. But I have learned to judge a politician not by the words coming out of his mouth today, but rather by the words coming out of their mouths when it mattered before. Trust, but verify – if you will.
We have also recently learned of one of Johnson’s votes on the Hennepin County Commission giving the Sheriff’s Department the same sort of tools of the trade that the NSA has been using to spy on American’s. Its called Kingfish and allows the Sherriff’s Department to exploit cellular devices. He is now saying it was a mistake, but he didn’t just make an uninformed vote, he went to bat for the program.
In March 2010, the Hennepin County Board tabled a request by Sheriff Stanek to spend $426,150 to acquire Kingfish. Johnson voted against tabling the motion, with the Star Tribune reporting ”Commissioner Jeff Johnson said he was convinced it was an important and useful law enforcement tool that wouldn’t violate privacy rights.” Johnson was absent the day funding was finally approved. Johnson later wrote in a blog post that he was able to ask question about KingFish to Stanek’s office and was “…quite comfortable with the answers” he received in response. The record is clear: Johnson supported the implementation of KingFish.
It sure seems to me that Johnson’s record shows him to be more opportunistic than principled. He reminds me a lot of Tim Pawlenty. When we had the Republican House in 2004 & 2005 dragging him to the right, Pawlenty was “with us”, but when Democrats took over, he was pushed around by Democrats.
In my opinion, consistency is a good test of a candidate’s principles. Its easy to oppose something after you have huge public backlash. Its easy to say a few words or phrases to a group of people that you know want to hear.
Look, I see Johnson as more of an opportunist. There are times that Republicans would be wise to chose a candidate like him, but now is not that time. With the radical agenda of the left and their all out war on free markets and their desire to fundamentally transform our nation and sate, Republicans need a consistent conservative who we don’t have to worry about turning into a windsock.
Another politician’s mea culpa comes to mind.