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Johnson joins race for Anderson's seat

Quad City Times

Wednesday, September 13, 2017  |  Article  |  Sarah Hayden

Candidates--Statewide (12)

Democrat Gregg Johnson has announced his candidacy for the 36th District of the Illinois State Senate, challenging Neil Anderson, R-Andalusia.


He will face Democratic opponent and Moline resident Brandon Sanchez in the March 2018 primary.


Mr. Johnson, 53, retired from the Illinois Department of Corrections three years ago after 32 years of service. He spent the first half of his career as a correctional officer, later moving to the business office as a supply supervisor.


He also served as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) political chair in the Illinois Quad-Cities from 2010 to 2015 and currently sits on the Hope Creek Care Center board of directors.


A resident of East Moline, Mr. Johnson is married to Celia. He has one daughter, three stepchildren and four grandchildren.


He said he was inspired to run for state office so he can make a difference in education, enact property tax reform and build stronger communities within his district.


"The way I've always viewed things is that you're either part of the problem or you're part of the solution," he said. "I think we need new leadership in Springfield on all levels, in our House, our Senate and in our governor's mansion.

"I feel that I can represent the 36th District and use the experience that I've had to teach people how to reach bipartisan compromise and put the people of Illinois first for a change."


Mr. Johnson said he sees two major problems in Springfield: Gov. Bruce Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan.


"We have two people who are setting the agenda. I think of the harm that is being done to so many people in Illinois, whether it's small business owners, the developmentally disabled, seniors or veterans.


"I've been in state government for more than 30 years," he said. "I've seen when it's functioned well, and I've seen it when it's functioned not so well. Clearly, the state of Illinois under Speaker Madigan's leadership, and Democratic and Republican governors and legislators has been very poor at times. I think Speaker Madigan is as culpable as anybody for what's gone on here."


Mr. Johnson said another issue that concerns him is the state's decline in population, which can be minimized if more youth remain in Illinois for college. Suspension of the Monetary Award Program (MAP) - grants given to students who attend approved state colleges - has contributed to young people moving out of state, he said.


"I think two years of no MAP grants has sent thousands of our best and brightest kids to leave our state to seek higher education elsewhere. I want to make sure that our kids want to stay here in Illinois. We want to build an Illinois that our people are proud of."


Investment in infrastructure is another cause he will fight for in Springfield, he said.


"We have to create an economy that's going to work for everybody. We have to invest in infrastructure. Every dollar we put into infrastructure exponentially creates many more dollars that come into our community."


Mr. Johnson said the steady increase in property taxes needs to be addressed, and favoritism toward the wealthy needs to stop.


"We have to figure out a way to get property taxes under control and get the state to help out a little more in our local communities.


"The wealthier you are, the higher percentage you have of appealing your property taxes. We need to create a property tax appeal system that is equitable for everybody, not just the wealthy. The wealthy can hire attorneys who specialize in getting their taxes reduced, whereas others don't have that luxury. My property taxes have gone up the last three years. We have to figure out a way to get the property tax system under control and reformed."


Mr. Johnson already is meeting with residents and putting energy into his campaign as he goes door-to-door gathering the 1,000 signatures required for placement on the ballot by December.


"We got off to a great start last week," he said. "I've been very well received. The last few days I've had nothing but positive results. To me, what's more sad than someone who doesn't support you is someone who doesn't even participate in the process. For me, voting is a very important civic duty that we have."


Mr. Johnson said he was disappointed to learn nearly 50 percent of registered voters did not vote in the recent presidential election.


"It's sad and disheartening to see that they've lost complete confidence in our system. It's hard to convince someone that one vote can make a difference, but it really can," he said.


"I've never been one who's been shy for standing up for what I believe in. I'm really excited about taking this on the road. We need to have serious discussions about what's going on here in the state."


Mr. Johnson is holding a campaign fundraiser on Sept. 28 at the East Moline American Legion, 829 16th Ave., from 5:30 to 8 p.m. The event will be catered by Adolph's Mexican Restaurant, and the cost is $25 a person, $50 for a family.


"I'm excited to go out and talk to people and get things moving in the right direction. I think we all have a responsibility to try and make the world a better place. I want to make the world a better place."


For more information about Mr. Johnson's campaign, visit his Facebook page at facebook.com/greggjohnsonforillinois.