Bert Johnson seeks 14th Congressional District seat
DETROIT — State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, says he’s the right candidate to fill the 14th District Congressional seat to be vacated by Gary Peters, who is running for U.S. Senate.
“There’s an old saying: The best predictor or indicator of future behavior is to look at past behavior,” said Johnson, who’s served a total of seven years as a state legislator — two terms as a state representative and is currently serving his first term as senator.
He says his legislative experience makes him the best candidate. Candidates for the seat include Rep. Rudy Hobbs, D-Southfield, Sen. Vincent Gregory, D- Farmington Hills among others.
“Over my tenure … I’ve passed more laws than others,” said Johnson, adding that it’s not about quantity but a boast of his team’s productivity.
More notable laws include getting mega credits to finalize the College of Creative Studies, the Broderick Tower, passing the law for a regional transportation authority and getting rid of the “more onerous” components of the driver’s responsibility law.
“We got the governor to see the light of day and he gave us a clear lane to get rid (of them),” he said, calling the fee a poll tax on those who already struggle to pay high insurance rates and court fees.
Johnson said he’s had to deal with the governor creatively on other issues such as the placement of an emergency manager law in Highland Park.
“I’ve had to very shrewdly deal with the governor,” he said. “Being creative when others don’t see eye to eye is key.”
Johnson said oftentimes in the current legislature he and Gov. Rick Snyder have not seen “the same light of day.”
“I’m trying to keep Highland Park from getting an emergency manager by achieving a local control option,” said a positive Johnson. “You have be creative when your agendas don’t match and be strong enough to take (your position) into the governor’s office.”
He says he plans to take this same creativity and statesmanship to Washington.
“Even if we don’t agree, what they’ll do is respect the position that I stake out because I’m staking those positions on behalf of citizens,” he said. “And it’s not that I’m bringing my personal stuff to the table as much as I’m representing the people who elected me.”
Johnson says he’s not under any allusions about what the job entails or that there are current members of Congress who work on behalf of the people and not themselves.
But he says he plans to be proactive and progressive on dealing with the issues facing Detroit, including crises situations like emergency management and bankruptcy and bringing resources to the beleaguered education system in Detroit.
“That’s going to be hard. There’s never going to be any easy answers,” he said. “But I think it is the kind of work the citizens are expecting us to do.
Since 2008, Detroit has lost seniority in Congress. Hansen Clark beat out Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick who headed the Appropriation Committee and longtime Congressman John Conyers lost his Judiciary Committee chairmanship, both sought after positions earned over time.
While he says he’ll have to climb the ranks for seniority, he has his sights set on the Appropriation Committee.
“I’ve been an appropriator (in Lansing) and because Michigan no longer has an appropriator, it’s attractive for me to seek that kind of post.”
Johnson says his focus will be on transportation, infrastructure, jobs and education.
“Washington has done a horrible job at providing dollars to go along with any of the mandates, whether it be No Child Left Behind or, in this instance, Race to the Top.”
He says dealing with all the issues shows he’s been a well-rounded legislator who can communicate on a number of different issues at the same time.
“Our ability to multi-task has been a benefit to my community.”
Although he can run for another state senate term, the Detroit native says he has an opportunity to be a unique voice in the Capitol.
“To advocate in the highest halls of government for really good government and talk about issues from the uniqueness of our voice.”
Detroit’s greatest need, he says, is the kind of resources that put in place job opportunities “so that our citizens can participate in America and the American economy and the kind of education that supports the ability to be involved in the American economy.”
He believes lack of economic opportunity is the cause of crime in Detroit.
Johnson, who currently resides in Highland Park, plans to move where he says the base of his support lives, in Detroit.
Right now he serves seven communities and says he looks forward to representing a larger more diverse district that includes parts of Detroit, the Grosse Pointes, Southfield, Lathrup Village, Oak Park, Farmington Hills, West Bloomfield and Pontiac.
— Staff report