A crowded host of Democratic politicos announced this month their intentions to run against Rep. Hank Johnson, a month after the ailing Congressman announced he’s been struggling with Hepatitis C.
Former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones announced his candidacy Jan. 15 for the Fourth Congressional District seat. County Commissioner Connie Stokes also said she plans to run for the seat, and Commissioner Lee May has said he’s considering a run.
“Serious times call for serious representation, and the Fourth District will be well served by a vigorous, positive debate that presents a diversity of views,” Johnson said in a statement. “I look forward to a vigorous campaign and re-election to a third term.”
Jones said inside a Lithonia office complex he’s focusing his campaign on getting county residents employed and expressed a strong distaste for last year’s Wall Street bailouts.
“The stimulus act,” Jones said referring to President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “Did it stimulate you? It didn’t trickle down.”
Congress should have focused more on small businesses instead of the finance and banking sector, he said. He also added that residents’ outrage at the federal government’s response to the worst economic slump since The Great Depression would also supersede voter resentment toward him.
“I think being unemployed outshines outrage,” Jones said. “We are off-track in America. We have forgotten about the backbone of America, and that’s small businesses.”
Jones also sought to convince local media he was committed to repairing relationships with residents, politicians and reporters he notoriously bristled as CEO.
“Sometimes my personality overshadowed my accomplishments,” he said.
During his 2008 U.S. Senate campaign against Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Jones said he was a conservative Democrat and had voted for former President George W. Bush.
“I made a mistake there and corrected that when I voted for Barack Obama (in 2008),” Jones said.
Jones also said he is uniquely prepared to work with Congress due to his election to the Georgia House in 1992. He also said he was the first DeKalb County CEO to hire a Washington lobbyist.
Stokes, however, said she would not discuss details of her campaign until Jan. 30 when she plans to announce her run at The DeKalb History Center in Decatur at 1 p.m. She did say her experience as chairwoman of the commission’s budget committee and her decade spent as a state senator prepared her for Congress.
“I’m not running against (Johnson),” Stokes said. “I’m running for the Fourth Congressional District. I will outline the details of why I think my running for Congress will mean something different.”
Johnson announced in December he has struggled with hepatitis for more than a decade. Hepatitis C has no vaccine and does not show symptoms until it has caused advanced liver damage. Johnson said he does not know how he contracted the disease, which can be transmitted through blood transfusions and needle use, among other ways. He discovered he had the disease in 1998.
The congressman has been undergoing treatments at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with a combination of interferon and ribavirin, which have caused negative side effects. The treatment, which ends in February, has caused thyroid issues and depression for which Johnson is also being treated.