Profile on Ron Johnson

Paula Baroff

April 13 2015

Ron Johnson’s voice, loud and animated, crackled from the radio. In response to a question about local politics, he enthusiastically mentioned the 9th district GOP banquet. “We’re trying to get Scott Walker!” he exclaimed, “We’re really working on Scott Walker.”

Immediately after leaving the air, Johnson, the Second Vice Chair of the Georgia GOP, begins to take personal calls. At the same time, he drives across the state to county GOP meetings, every once in a while losing the connection as he travels down off-the-beaten-path roads to get to very, very small population counties so that he can help with their meetings.

Very often, he goes to Athens.

At a College Republicans meeting, Johnson smiled at the group of college students. “What county are you from?” he shot at one girl. “Gwinnett? That’s an easy one. Yep, I’ve been there! Great GOP there.”

Johnson has been to 75 counties in Georgia. His dedication to local politics enthusiasm bordering on passion, he has no obligation to travel the state, but does so of his own volition, simply because he likes being involved.

While he GOP-meeting hops across the state on a daily basis, he keeps in mind those counties he feels need him the most. He tries to go to the smaller counties most often, ones with the smallest populations.

“Those are the counties that need the most help,” Johnson explains. “They’ve got their own rules, but they don’t understand some of the state rules. I help explain the rules to them, and make it pretty simple so they can understand all the rules they have to follow.”

He is, if not the only person, the “main one” that does this. In this way, he makes himself well-known statewide.

His zeal for local politics colors his everyday life. “I think it’s more important!” he exclaimed, when asked if local politics is as important as federal. He cites the gridlock in Washington, and the necessary majority Congress needs to pass a bill. “I actually believe at your local level you can make changes and get things done.”

Besides the possibility of change on a local level, Johnson mentioned the ability of local legislators to raise taxes. “The people who hurt you the most with the amount of money they take is not the federal government. The counties and the cities tax your home. And they can raise them however they want to.”

More people, he said, become involved in politics before a Presidential election. He believes this is backwards, if understandable.

“You really need to get involved in local elections, because that’s who hurt you,” he said, “That’s the way government’s supposed to operate. Not trying to take all your money. A little piece of it is fine.”

His proudest material accomplishment at the moment involves the Georgia Veteran’s Committee. This year, the committee donated wheelchairs to Paralympic participants—two tennis chairs, a basketball chair, and a racing chair.

“They make the Paralympic chairs and they’re handmade right here in Georgia. They make it so it fits them perfectly.”

Interrupting his GOP political talk, Johnson talked about the chairs for several minutes, and kept coming back to them. A retired veteran himself, the wheelchairs for Paralympic athletes hit home for him.

“It’s something they can get through the VA, but it probably takes a year and half to get one of those chairs,” he explained. “We made it happen in less than a month. We made it happen, we got them one of the best chairs in the world and it was made in Georgia.”

Another of Johnson’s major focuses is on Republican youth involvement. Saying that youth involvement is “absolutely” important for the future of Republican politics, one reason Johnson travels to Athens so often is the large youth population—he wants to motivate them to become more active in GOP politics, especially on the local level.

“When the Republican Party talks about reaching out to the youth, they’re talking about reaching out to the 25-40 group,” he said. “When I talk about reaching out to the youth, I’m talking about the Teen Republicans in High School and the College Republicans in universities.”

“They’ve supported me,” Johnson said about the young Athens Republicans, singling out several who had worked for his campaigns and helped him with district and county projects.

Turning to the rest of the group, Johnson encouraged everyone to go to their county GOP meetings—not just to become involved, but to jump in with both feet and run for positions in the near future. “We’re looking for those people,” he said, referring to motivated young Republicans who could become the future party leaders.

A way that Johnson has encouraged these young people to become involved in very real ways has been the convention cycle. Georgia, in the midst of their nominating district conventions and leading up to the large GOP State Convention, is undergoing potential changes in leadership and internal political affairs. Again pointing out a few college students, both in Athens and from other schools, Johnson brought up the State Convention as a prime example of youth involvement.

“I’ve looked at the number of College Republicans who were delegates,” he said. “Everyone should think about becoming a delegate next time.”

The Convention itself, according to Johnson, is going to be interesting. The outcomes are difficult to predict, he says, but it will certainly be interesting to watch.

Johnson’s interest in local politics did not preclude his increasing attention on the 2016 presidential election. “The more interesting one is going to be the 2015 one where we pick delegates for the national convention. I’ve been through a couple of those, and those really bring out people you’ve never seen before.”

The impact of local politics, to Johnson, is even more important with those large national elections approaching. “It’s really important that young people get involved, and especially in local politics,” he said.

“They don’t think they can have impacts, but they do. That’s why I push so hard for them to get involved. I’ll say that I’ve never turned down a College Republicans meeting! Sometimes I come to them even when I’m not invited.”

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