Ask almost any former member of a state Legislature in Missouri or anywhere for that matter, and the reaction is almost always the same:
“It was fun, but I don’t miss it.”
Not Bob Johnson. At 68, the veteran member of the Lee’s Summit City Council was filing on Tuesday for another run for state representative, this time for the 34th District.
Johnson has been there, done that, over and over again.
He served in the state House from 1973-1977, in the state Senate from 1980-1994 and was back in the House from 2003-2007.
He has four years of eligibility remaining before term limits would end his tenure — in the House, at least.
Johnson, a Republican, sounds like a man on a mission.
“What’s happening in Jefferson City has happened in Washington,” he said as he drove to the capital city Tuesday morning to file. “We've become too partisan. It seems to me that party ID and party allegiances are more important than what's right in this case for Missourians.”
He insists that he holds independent views and that his moderate governing philosophy needs to be more represented in the halls of the Capitol.
“I’m ready to get in there and mix it up,” he said.
Johnson remembers serving in the Senate in the 1980s when the body prided itself as a bipartisan institution. As a Republican in a chamber controlled by Democrats, Johnson was still able to pass significant legislation, including a measure that established living wills in the state.
“If we had one partisan vote a year, that's probably all we had,” he recalled. “The mentality and the philosophy was we all work together.
“That's what it ought to be. When the elections are over, legislators ought to get down there and try to solve the people’s problems and not try to get partisan gain out of something.”
In a news release, Johnson said he wants to rein in state tax credit programs, which are robbing the budgets of public schools, highways and law enforcement. The cost of those tax credits now tops $600 million a year, he said.
Oh, Johnson knows something about schools. He’s also served on the Lee’s Summit R-7 School Board.
Johnson said he’s out to correct something else. As he made his way around the district in recent months asking people about their views of Jefferson City, he heard the same exasperated proclamations over and over again.
“People throw up their hands about state government,” Johnson said. “Truly 98 percent of the people I talk to...say Jefferson City doesn't do anything any more. It’s not responsive.”
People told him to stay put in local government. “Local government,” they said, “has become more important than state government.”
Johnson can hardly believe it.
“That needs to change,” he said. “We need to have a strong state government.”
Johnson won’t have a free ride to the seat. Two other Lee’s Summit Republicans, Justin Kalwei and Rebecca Roeber, have filed. So has a Democrat, Dale Mercer.
The primary election is in August.