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Johnson kicks off his bid for fifth term

Jennifer Ffrench-Parker | 2/28/2014, 6 a.m.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson addresses the crowd on Feb. 22 in Lithonia as he launches his re-election bid for a fifth term of office in the 4th Congressional District. Photo by Jennifer Ffrench-Parker

In the seven years that he has been in office, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson has garnered some staunch supporters across the 4th Congressional District.

On Feb. 22 when he kicked off his re-election campaign for a fifth term of office, more than 300 of them appeared to show their support.

Many scribbled well wishes on a massive card that covered one wall of the new campaign office at 2853 Panola Road. Others made fiery speeches from the podium.

Jan Selman of Decatur said she has been a Johnson supporter since his first run against six-term Rep. Cynthia McKinney in 2006.

At that time, many people thought he was a long shot.

But Selman, who knew Johnson when he was a Decatur attorney and county commissioner, said she saw him as “a real Democrat” then and now. Before taking the microphone at the grand opening of Johnson’s campaign office Saturday, Selman took to the wall card with a red marker, scribbling “a Congressman with a heart,” with a picture representing the word “heart.”

From the podium, Selman held up a picture of the Tin Man from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“I want a congressman that will support the foundation that the country was built on,” she said. “I do not want the Tin Man. I want a congressman with a heart.”

Selman said she supports Johnson for Congress because he has never let her down.

“He has always voted the conscience of a Democrat,” she said to cheers. “He has always voted in the best interest of his constituents. We can ask for no more and we can accept nothing less.”

Johnson has faced Democratic opposition only once, in 2010 when six Democrats challenged him. In 2012, he made history as the first 4th District representative not to have either a Democrat or Republican challenger.

He is not so lucky this time.

In the May 20 Democratic primary, he is being challenged by outgoing DeKalb Sheriff Thomas Brown, who has won countywide elections unopposed for all four of his terms in office. Brown was set to step down from his office on Feb. 28 to seek the Democratic nomination.

At the Feb. 22 campaign kickoff, speaker after speaker – from unions, churches, local and state government, community groups, and constituents from the 4th District that includes portions of DeKalb, Rockdale, Newton and Gwinnett counties – said Johnson stands up for labor, the working poor, women’s rights, and for people without health insurance and that he supports President Barack Obama and the laws of the country.

Civil rights icon and 5th District U.S. Rep. John Lewis said that the Georgia delegation needs Johnson.

“We need his leadership,” Lewis said. “We need his vision. We need his commitment. We need his dedication now more than ever before.”

Lewis, who mentored Johnson when he got to the U.S. House, said he loves serving in Congress with Johnson.

“He will always do the right thing,” Lewis said. “I know where this young man stands. I know his heart. He will never, ever let the people of this district down. And I know we are going to have a great victory because you are here, early on a Saturday morning, and now you stand here on Saturday afternoon.”