Voters in Daviess County are deciding several races for the Kentucky legislature. Perhaps the most high profile contest on the ballot is a rematch between State Representative Jim Glenn and DJ Johnson for the 13th District House seat. Their last contest was a nail-biter.
Glenn, a Democrat, held the office for ten years before he was defeated by Johnson, a Republican, in 2016. Two years later, Glenn won the seat back by one vote.
Johnson requested a recount, which resulted in a tie. But a lawyer for Glenn filed a complaint with the office of the Kentucky Attorney General, claiming an attorney for Johnson illegally influenced the recount process. Johnson’s lawyer denied the charge, but Johnson later announced he was dropping his challenge in order to end the controversy.
"It was going to be a circus in the courts. It was very possible the people of the 13th District were not going to have a sitting representative for possibly that whole term, and I withdrew my challenge," Johnson said. "Hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
Right after that, Johnson was appointed as former Gov. Matt Bevin’s legislative liaison. Now, the former small business owner and retired U.S. Army Captain is back on the campaign trail, working to reclaim the seat that covers a portion of Daviess County. He recently canvassed homes on Queens Way Court in Owensboro.
"Hello there! My name's DJ Johnson and I'm running for state representative. Can I give you this card?," asked Johnson.
Johnson didn’t start knocking on doors as early in the campaign season as he normally would have because of the coronavirus. The pandemic has changed how all candidates are interacting with voters this election season. In place of door-to-door campaigning, incumbent Jim Glenn got creative.
"I hired a jazz guy to play jazz at a Zoom fundraiser," stated Glenn. "You stayed home, watched the Zoom fundraiser online, and they sent checks.”
The two candidates are campaigning on many of the same issues they did in 2018, but COVID-19 is the new talking point of this campaign. Next year’s General Assembly will be tasked with writing a one-year budget. Glenn says lawmakers will have some tough decisions to make amid a loss in state revenue.
"We have to figure out what’s important to us again because of a number of people have lost their jobs, and in the process, lost their skills. If you’re not working, you’re losing your skills," said Glenn. "We’ve also lost a lot of restaurants. A lot of them are closing. Not enough kids are getting educated. We have to figure out after this pandemic how to jumpstart the educational system.”
Both Glenn and Johnson approve of Governor Andy Beshear’s handling of the pandemic. But Johnson says he wishes Beshear had involved state lawmakers when making decisions that resulted in mandates and restrictions. Johnson says while we can’t go completely back to normal yet, he thinks it’s time to re-start the economy.
"We’re at a point where we’re much smarter now. We understand how this works a lot better. We understand how to avoid it a lot better," Johnson said. "Bottom line, we just need to get back to doing what we were doing before the pandemic, and we can do that.”
Glenn is a little less optimistic and believes the state will be dealing with pandemic possibly two years from now.
"It’s going to be next year, the first quarter before we have a shot. It’s going to take us until the end of next year before we get 70 percent of people vaccinated, herd immunity," Glenn said. "It’s going to be December or January 2022 before we get this under hand.”
Kentucky set another record for the highest number of new COVID-19 cases confirmed in a week, with 9,335 cases reported for the week ending Saturday, Oct. 24.
In 2016, Johnson was the first Republican in a decade to win the 13th District House seat. Now he wants another term in the General Assembly to work on measures that would increase public safety, reduce prescription drug costs, and reform the foster care and adoption system. He must defeat Rep. Glenn who is in his 12th year representing the people of Daviess County. As a professor at Owensboro Community and Technical College, Glenn wants another term to fight for education, as well as healthcare and jobs.
Almost 70 percent of Daviess County residents voted in the 2016 presidential election. Similar turnout is expected in this election as voters choose between Glenn and Johnson who are facing each other for the third time.