A businessman running for office isn’t a strange thing. However, there may be something strange about Jonathan Johnson running for Governor in Utah. He’s going up against an incumbent who is taking the signature gathering route to get on the Primary ballot. That’s a big deal here because we really like our caucus/convention system and moneyed Republicans are doing their best to destroy the system via SB54, a law passed by the state legislature so they (the legislators) can claim that they saved the caucus/convention system while going around the caucus/convention system and using the signature gathering system to remain in office. Hypocrites.
So … we have Jonathan Johnson running for governor and rejecting the signature gathering option. He’s a wealthy man. He could hire people to gather signatures. He is choosing not to do that because he believes in the caucus/convention system. His behavior is in tune with his words. That's rare.
Last night, we spent about 30 minutes talking. He started at Overstock.com as a one-person legal department, became an executive board member, worked as president of Overstock for five years and was acting CEO while the founder and CEO recovered from an illness.
I asked him what the first thing he wants to do as Governor. His answer was quick and decisive, “Transform education”. He noted that we have good teachers and involved parents but “we don’t do as well as we should”. He wants to “personalize education and give control back to local communities”. When I asked him about his feelings toward Common Core, he said, “Decisions need to be taken away from the state board” and given back to local school boards.
He cited less dependence on the federal government for money as a second priority.
Getting control of land back from the federal government was another priority but overall, he talked about “governing by doing the right things”. He drew a distinction between “a manager who wants to be popular versus a real leader”.
Johnson believes that “a real leader” takes the criticism and here in Utah, if you run for statewide office, the major media outlets, all based along the Wasatch Front, you are going to be criticized and personally ridiculed.
The candidate has spent 18 months traveling all around Utah and said that he had learned a lot from the large variety of people he has met and from his community service experiences. In short, he said, “I’ve seen what money and power can do” and he wants to stop the influence of those things.
As a side note, Johnson has challenged the Governor to a series of debates. The Governor has refused to go for it. The Governor is probably being told that he has everything to lose and nothing to gain by debating a challenger. But in this case, he is being given bad advice. He would do himself a greater service by showing some courage. Of course, it may also be that his advisors know that he’s not particularly courageous and doesn’t want to expose that lack publicly.
GOD BLESS AMERICA!