Candidate Ann Johnson aims to bring Texas ‘from worst to first’
by Megan Smith • Photo by Sonya Cuellar
In the midst of a public education system quickly going down the tubes, and a futile debate over healthcare issues, Texas state representative candidate Ann Johnson is stepping up in hopes of bringing a democratic voice back to the people of District 134 this November.
A Houston native, Johnson is the product of a long line of public servants. Her father, Jake Johnson, is a former state representative, attorney, and campaigner for Barbara Jordan. Her mother is former civil district judge Carolyn Marks Johnson, who has also taught at Alvin Community College, the University of Houston, and South Texas College of Law. “My parents raised me to value public service,” Johnson says. “I’m community-minded. I’m the youngest of six, and I come by it honestly.”
Johnson began practicing law after receiving a law degree from South Texas College of Law. She served as a briefing attorney for Judge Leslie Brock Yates in the 14th Court of Appeals, and then as a prosecutor for the district attorney’s office, where she fell in love with advocating for victims in the community. “I have kind of grown up around that environment of standing up for people who may not be able to speak for themselves,” Johnson says.
Johnson was forced to leave her job as a prosecutor when she was diagnosed with cancer, and experienced first-hand the impact that a serious diagnosis can have on a family. During her treatment, Johnson witnessed the hardships and cost of care encountered by those who lack insurance in the current healthcare system. “I think right down the road is the best medical center in the world,” Johnson says. “It’s a phenomenal community, and I am grateful to the medical doctors and assistants that cured me. I want to make sure they are taken care of and protected, and that the medical community is given the resources that it needs. I was fortunate enough to have insurance, and I was fortunate to be able to receive that incredible care. One in four Texans don’t have [insurance, so we need to find a way] to do what is best for all Texans.”
Johnson supports Obama’s Affordable Care Act, and points out that the LGBT community would greatly benefit from healthcare reform. “I oppose discrimination in any form,” Johnson says. “Texas, right now, is at the bottom of the barrel, dead-last in the nation for being able to provide care to its citizens. Our governor has taken a position to say that he’s going to keep it that way. I don’t agree with that. Texas has to evaluate whether or not it’s in the best interest of our state, our citizens, and our economy to turn down $76 billion that we have already paid [for our Medicaid program]—money that’s due to come back to the state. Making sure we have healthcare is a benefit to everyone, and that is an equality issue for everybody.”
After Johnson’s recovery from cancer, she closed the door on her prosecutor position and opened a new one—representing juvenile victims. Johnson strongly believes in standing up for the youngest of Texans, and is proud of her recent win in a landmark case before the Texas Supreme Court dealing with juvenile human trafficking. “I love doing juvenile defense work,” she says. “There are great judges here locally. There are many phenomenal programs being put in place. That’s a great way to make the system better so that we’re not just having people continually come back into the system.”
If elected, Johnson promises to continue to protect Texas children by bettering the public education system. Strongly disagreeing with the $5.3 billion funding cut to education that was ➝ made during the last session, she stresses the importance of a proper investment in public schools. The cut devastated student access to arts programs and extracurricular activities, stifling educational opportunities. Johnson believes that if the system is not fixed, the next generation of Texans will be unable to compete in the job market, negatively impacting the state’s economy. “We need to make sure that our public education system is giving this generation of Texans an opportunity to grow through every means of education, and giving them every resource that is needed so that they can have a complete and creative education,” she says. “Cutting and gutting us back to creating overcrowded class sizes and cutting out curriculum is putting us in survival mode. We owe the children of this state better.”
District 134’s state representative is conservative Republican Sarah Davis. Johnson criticizes Davis’s work on issues such as education, healthcare, and women’s issues. Davis voted for the education cuts, stands with Rick Perry on gutting the Affordable Care Act, and voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood, taking away necessary screenings for uninsured women. “Let’s just say we’re not taking the same position,” Johnson says with a laugh.
Johnson recently joined the list of candidates endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which works to elect openly LGBT leaders to all levels of government. “I’m proud to have that endorsement,” she says. “I think people right now, from every group, are focused in on the priorities that need to happen in Texas [during the next legislative session to make sure] there are people who will stand up for education, for our economy, and for our health. I’m grateful to have the support of so many who are backing that kind of vision.”
Johnson enjoys all aspects of community involvement as a member (with her partner Sonya) at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, and as an adjunct professor at South Texas College of Law. She strives to meet as many people in the district as possible before the election this November 6, bringing a real sense of humanity to her campaign. “I’m very energized by speaking with voters and getting a chance to meet them, attending civic club meetings, and to see what’s happening within the community for people trying to make Houston—and specifically District 134—a beacon for how we can go from worst to first,” she says.
Megan Smith is a news and features writer‑ for OutSmart magazine.