State Rep. Julie Johnson (Photo by Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

Battle-tested state Rep. Julie Johnson says she needs to end the year with some strong fundraising

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

The Dallas Morning News has declared state Rep. Julie Johnson a frontrunner in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Colin Allred in Congress because she leads the pack in fundraising. In many cases in politics, money determines the outcome of the race.
Johnson has a reputation as a great fundraiser, but even for the leader of the pack, “These races are expensive,” she said.

In her three terms in the Texas House of Representatives, Johnson has gained a reputation for listening to her constituents, working across the aisle and getting legislation passed. So the portion of her state House district that overlaps with the 32nd congressional district knows what an effective representative they have. The problem is the congressional seat she’s running for includes four times the number of constituents she currently represents.

So to get word out and gain name recognition throughout U.S. House District 32, Johnson said she needs to keep fundraising.

If elected, Johnson would become the first LGBTQ person elected to Congress from Texas and the first representing a southern state. But, Johnson said, “If the LGBT community wants to finally have representation from this state, we’ve got to become involved in a way we’ve never been involved before.”

Because the district covers not just the northern part of Dallas County but also includes a section of Collin and Denton counties, Johnson must register to run for office in Austin. Monday, Nov. 13, is the first day to file, and she said she plans to be in Austin Monday morning to do just that.

Then the race is on to engage our community and get people out to vote, and to do that she’ll need money and volunteers.

“The time for laying in your bed and screaming at the TV is over,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to get up and do something about it.”

She said that experience matters, and she’s the only candidate with a campaign committee who’s been elected to office and served constituents.

“I’m proud of my legislative experience,” she said. “I learned a lot. My opponents think Congress is the entry point to politics.” Through her five years in office, she said she’s learned about policy, procedure and how to get a bill passed.

“I’m the only one in this race with that experience and can be effective when I get to D.C.,” she said. “My opponents will have to spend their first term learning to do it. I can get going on Day One.”

LGBTQ Victory Fund President and CEO Annise Parker agreed with Johnson about fundraising: “Money literally talks. We think Julie’s an outstanding candidate.”

Most of Victory Fund’s attention so far this year has focused on candidates running in the November election, and those candidates did particularly well. Danica Roem won a state senate seat in Virginia, making her the first transgender state senator from a southern state, and seven LGBTQ candidates won seats in the lower house flipping the House of Delegates from Republican to Democratic. And in Mississippi, Fabian Nelson will become the first out legislator elected.

On the heels of those successes, Parker hopes her organization will now be able to devote more time to the early primaries. That would include Johnson’s March 5 primary.

While Johnson is a great fundraiser, Parker said, “People can’t take her race for granted.” She ticked off some of the basics Johnson will need to run a winning campaign: An office, phones for phone banking, printed literature, postage, text messaging software.

“It adds up in a hurry,” Parker said. “Then, it’s a big media market. If she wants to do TV and radio, it adds up quickly.” And that air time Johnson needs to start booking now.

While acknowledging December is one of the hardest months to fundraise, Parker said, “She needs support early. She can’t afford to wait until the last minute.”

Most people don’t start paying attention to political races in Texas until January, but Johnson needs to end the year strong, Parker said.

“She’s a proven commodity,” Parker said. “She knows how to campaign, how to govern, and she’s strong on issues important to the community.

If you can be successful in the Texas House, you can be strong in D.C.”

Morgan Cox is Human Rights Campaign’s board chair and is serving as finance chair of Johnson’s campaign.

“It’s important all LGBTQ people and our allies support this historic campaign,” Cox said. “We’re looking at exciting races across the country, but this one’s right here at home. She has our values and will fight for us.”

As an example, he said, other candidates will probably support the Equality Act. But Johnson will wake up every day and say, “Today I’m going to push the needle a little farther.”

He gave another reason to support Johnson’s campaign: “Julie getting out the vote helps Colin Allred defeat Ted Cruz.” Allred currently occupies the seat Johnson is seeking. Rather than run for another term in the House, he decided to challenge Cruz for his Senate seat.

Cox asked people to talk to their family and friends. “No contribution is too small,” he said, “and her website is easy to find. Now is the time to make a contribution and support her so she finishes the year strong.”

He called her battle-tested.

“She knows how to accomplish things and has had success in legislating,” he said. “She works across the aisle and is the perfect candidate with the skill set required to go the distance and be the first LGBT person elected from the South.”

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