Brittney Johnson is a 25 year old farmer and food security advocate. After seeing firsthand how tough it can be for folks in her community to make ends meet and to afford their healthcare, she decided to run for a seat in the Minnesota state legislature.
What problem would you like to solve by running for office?
One of the huge challenges we face in the agricultural community is the affordability of our healthcare. A lot of people in my district work seasonal jobs — people work the beet harvest, the potato harvest and construction over the summer. So making sure that people have year round healthcare is so important. And even for people who do have consistent healthcare, the premiums and deductibles are so high that they can hardly afford to use it.
I work full time at the Otter Tail County Soil and Water Conservation District, and on the weekends I work a second job at Fleet Farm in Fergus Falls. I see just how many people in our community have to work two jobs just to be able to afford to tread water. It’s crazy.
I want families to be able to work really hard at their jobs, and then be able to come home to spend time with the people they love. We need to make sure people can afford their insurance premiums, and that people can buy the medications that keep them healthy. Right now, that’s just not a reality for a lot of people. I think that we can change that.
Was there a specific incident that led you to run for office?
I had been involved for a while in local political groups. People would sometimes tell me that I should run for office. I’d always say, “No, that’s ridiculous. I could never do it.”
But then, I watched what happened in the 2017 election in Virginia. I watched Danica Roem win and become the first transgender woman in a US state legislature! That was so cool! She overcame so much to win her race. And I was just so impressed with the way she was able to focus on the issues that matter to people in her district. She said, “I’m running because we need to fix our roads.” That really resonated with people.
When Danica won, I realized that there’s no reason why I couldn’t do it too.
Any interesting things happen doorknocking?
I’m running in a pretty reliably red district. Talking to voters really has helped me to understand their perspective. I realized that you can’t close yourself off to a bunch of other options and ideas. Once I started listening, it helped me understand what people’s actual concerns were.
Once, I knocked on a door, introduced myself and asked the man at the door what issues he’d like to see addressed. To my surprise, he pulled up his shirt and flashed a handgun in a holster! He told me he was feeling like his 2nd amendment rights were being squeezed. Instead of running away, I asked him to tell me more.
We started talking about the gun show loophole and other ways people can buy guns without going through the strenuous background checks that he’s gone through to buy his guns. “I don’t think that’s fair,” he said. And I said, “Me either!”
You can find common ground if you don’t go up to doors with a rigid agenda. If you’re really interested in listening to what other people have to say, you can find issues that you can work on together. I think that’s been a really good lesson.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about running for office?
You don’t have to be perfect at first. There are plenty of people who will tell you when you’re doing things wrong. You’ll get there. You just have to start. The absolute worst thing that can happen is that you’ll get to know the people in your community a little bit better. That’s it. I just say do it.
What’s on your “get pumped up to canvass” playlist?
Right now, it’s “Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer. It has such a good beat.
The other thing that helps me get pumped up is listening to really bad policy proposals from the other side. I listen to this stuff and think — That’s ridiculous! We just can’t have that! Then, I’m ready to go out and canvass.
How have you used/worked with RFS in your race?
Run For Something is often the first organization to take people like me seriously. When I first started running, not many people took me very seriously at all. That can be really tough. RfS doesn’t have hang-ups about taking a chance on a 25 year old candidate running against a 22 year incumbent. They say “You have a good platform. You’re young, and you care a lot. Let’s do this.”
With the RFS endorsement, I’m a completely viable candidate now. People who didn’t take me seriously before take me very seriously now. I’ve outraised my opponent 3 to 1.
To learn more about Brittney Johnson, check out her website: http://brittneyjohnsonfor8a.com