Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan is a man without a political party and he’s threatening to sue his former Republican colleagues for the right to participate and vote on senate committees.
“I think it’s unconstitutional to keep me off of committees,” Johnson says. “That’s where the whole legislative process starts, so I see it as legislation without representation for the 60,000 people that I represent.”
For the past 18 years, Johnson served in the legislature as a Republican. Johnson left the GOP this summer when Donald Trump became the party’s leader. Johnson’s arguing it’s time for a new working relationship among Republicans, Democrats and people like him who aren’t aligned with a party.
“I believe it’s time for ‘tripartisanship’ in a very sharply divided political atmosphere both in this state and in this country,” Johnson says.
The Senate’s Republican leader says he has appointed Republicans to slots on committees he has the authority to fill, but if the Senate’s Democratic leader wants to give a committee slot to the independent Johnson, that’s fine.
Johnson says if he hadn’t changed his voter registration from Republican to “no party” in June, he would have done so in December. Johnson is blasting Republicans, including Governor Terry Branstad, for proposing changes in Iowa’s collective bargaining law. Johnson says that’s not what Republican candidates campaigned on in 2016
“Absolutely it’s ‘bait and switch,'” Johnson says. “…It’s absolute nonsense.”
Republican Zach Whiting of Spencer already has stepped forward and announced he’ll run against Johnson if Johnson seeks reelection in 2018. Johnson, who is 66 years old, isn’t saying whether he’ll run again, but he has no plans to rejoin the GOP. Next week, Johnson plans to start lobbying his fellow legislators to give counties some authority to restrict where large-scale livestock confinements may be built.
“We’ve got a crisis in the number of hog confinements being proposed in this state and being built,” Johnson says. “I’ve been across this state…I’m shocked by what I see out there.”
Johnson says a proposed hog confinement near Churchtown, in northeast Iowa’s Allamakee County, could endanger drinking water for 15 percent of Iowa communities. Johnson’s also a critic of the Branstad Administration’s decision to give state incentives to Prestage Farms for a new pork processing plant in Webster City.
“The governor calls this a family company? It’s not,” Johnson says. “I mean, it’s time for this nonsense to stop.”
The state senate’s Democratic leader has appointed Johnson to the Senate Natural Resources Committee. This past week Johnson attended other committees he has been a member of in previous years to publicly make his case for continued membership on those panels.