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Columbia Missourian

Independent joins packed race for district seat

By JULIA HASLANGER
June 24, 2008 | 8:32 p.m. CDT
Justin Johnson

COLUMBIA — One more runner has joined the race, but this one’s from a different team.

Justin Johnson announced Monday his campaign as an Independent for Missouri’s 9th Congressional District seat. The seat is currently held by Republican Kenny Hulshof. If Johnson collects the required number of signatures, he will be the 11th name on the ballot for the seat but the only Independent.

Johnson hosted a public forum on the cost of the Iraq war and other issues Tuesday night at Columbia Country Club. The club was chosen to demonstrate the luxuries that Americans still have during the war. “No one has been asked to sacrifice anything except military families,” Johnson said.

Only a handful of people came, most of them from the media, so Johnson used the opportunity to explain who he is and why he’s running.

Johnson, 36, is the executive director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation. He lives in Columbia with his wife, Melissa Burns, and their two children, Moira, 8, and Luke, 6, who attend Russell Boulevard Elementary.

Johnson worked in Washington, D.C., for eight years, first as a press secretary for Senator David Pryor, D-Ark., then in the Department of the Interior as a policy and budget assistant. He also worked for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Washington. His experience in Washington is what sets him apart from the other candidates in the 9th district race, Johnson said.

The independent ticket appealed to Johnson because of the lack of preconceived notions attached to it and because it will keep him in the race through November. Most people, Johnson said, don’t pay attention to elections until September or October. By running on an independent ticket, he can talk with more people and have more influence.

Johnson’s main issues include getting out of Iraq and balancing the budget.

So far, Johnson’s campaign has collected 2,500 verified signatures, more than half the amount needed by the end of July to get listed on the ballot.

“We’ll get there,” Johnson said.