by Michael Sharkey
Duval Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner Rahman Johnson has set his sights on replacing Denise Lee in the state House of Representative from Dist. 15. In order to run for the House, Johnson abandoned his pursuit of a City Council seat.
“I am out of the City Council race,” said Johnson, who just turned 26, making him one the state’s youngest elected officials. “I am going to run for the state House of Representatives. We are coordinating the move as we speak.”
Johnson was originally planning to run for Faye Rustin’s City Council at-large Group 1 seat. The decision not to run against Rustin wasn’t influenced by having to run against an incumbent as much as it was by Lee’s pursuit of Betty Holzendorf’s State Senate seat. Johnson believes he can have more of an impact on the state level than locally.
“I felt I would do well in City Council, but there is not adequate representation in the House,” said Johnson, adding that he is sure Holzendorf, as it is rumored, is not planning to switch places with Lee. “I know for a fact that Betty is not going to do that. She doesn’t want to.”
Per state law, Johnson will have to resign from the Soil and Water Commission before qualifying for the state election begins July 22. While he may remain a member of the commission and campaign at the same time, Johnson’s resignation must be effective, should he win, before the Nov. 5 election.
In pursuing a state office, Johnson is making a big political jump, but not one that’s unprecedented. He pointed to several other well-known local politicians who made it to the state and federal level without holding a significant local office like City Council.
“There is a track record of people holding state office without holding a local office,” said Johnson. “People like [U.S. Rep.] Corrine Brown, Betty Holzendorf and Tony Hill never served on another elected body before they got elected.”
The decision doesn’t give Johnson much time to wage a campaign. With the primaries just over three months away, Johnson will have to work hard and quickly. He said he will relish that pace.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Johnson, who plans to open his campaign office soon. “We are going to have a kickoff party and a community walk.”
As a first-timer, there is the very real possibility he could lose and Johnson admits such. Still, Johnson’s confident and says he won’t get back into the Council race should he lose.
“No, if I don’t win, right now that’s not even a consideration,” said Johnson. “I’m not going in it to lose. I’m going in it to win. I’m going to be the next representative from Dist. 15. However, I am a realist and I know there has to be a loser.”