Name: state Rep. Ralph Johnson (Democrat)
District: Guilford County.
Occupation: semi-retired from home-improvement work
Lives in: Greensboro
From: Originally from New York City, moved to Greensboro 40 years ago to attend N.C. A&T
Family: Single, no children.
Campaign Facebook page here.
Hobbies: enjoys fishing, swimming and enjoyed playing sports before a recent hip surgery. Also enjoys reading and talking to people.
Previous elected offices, if any: Never held office, but was involved in Greensboro community groups.
Why did you run for office? “I ran because I was concerned about how the community that I live in was being treated.” Johnson is succeeding Alma Adams (now a U.S. Congresswoman). “She’d done a great job, in spite of some off the things that were being thrown at her. What’s happening right now is that a whole lot of things have changed and it seems that some things have gotten better, some things have gotten worse. I hope that things can get a bit better in the parts of the city I represent.”
What do you think will be the biggest issue at the legislature this year? Health care is really going to be a big topic. If you don’t have your health, everything else comes in second. If you’re laid up in the hospital not knowing how to pay your bill, then you’ve got nothing. You can go into bankruptcy because of medical bills, that’s not the America I want to be a part of. The legislature that was in Raleigh last year denied Medicaid (expansion), so I’m hoping that we take a different look.”
What’s one specific campaign promise that you’d like to deliver on? Education. “We’re near the bottom in terms of teacher pay and we’re in the bottom [in classroom spending]. We have an issue where the kids don’t even have textbooks.”
Wants to see schoolchildren have access to up-to-date books. “I’m old school, I know we have computers and things like that, but to pick up a book and read it, that should never get old.”
Also has concerns about bullying in school system, “No kid should be afraid of going to school.”
Do you think the state should expand the Medicaid program? Why or why not? Wants to expand Medicaid. “What’s happening right now is that we’ve lost billions of dollars from the time the Medicaid expansion could have started to now. I’m hoping that [Republican leadership] is going to take another look at it. I would challenge them to go to a hospital, go somewhere where there are people that are sick not knowing how they are going to pay their bill.
“Some of these folks are very sick. I challenge folks to do that, go to a hospital, see for yourself how serious this is. They [legislators] have got insurance, they can’t really see the impact on families.”
How do you feel about the state’s minimum wage ($7.25 an hour)? Should it be raised? We need to really look at that issue. I don’t know whether $10 an hour is the amount it should be, but I know $7.25 is not what it should be.” Thinks $9 or $9.25 an hour could be reasonable. “It’s a big jump, and you have to look at the businesses that are hiring people at those rates.”
Is the state’s funding for public education enough? No. Unfortunately, we’re at the bottom for a lot of things related to education, from textbooks to teacher pay to other issues. We have teachers leaving this state because they can’t afford to stay here. We’re losing our best teachers right now, in terms of the veteran teachers.”
What leader do you look up to the most? His pastor, Rev. Cardes H. Brown Jr. from New Light Missionary Baptist Church in Greensboro. “He’s been in the trenches for a number of years, and he’s still in the trenches. I hold him very high regards. Some folks do a lot of talking, and don’t act, but he’s a man of action” and organizes community programs that help school children, and discusses things like recent policy shootings. “He makes it where people come together and not be adversarial.”
Name your pet peeve: Party labels. “I’m a registered Democrat, I realize that, but I don’t want to be labeled as a Democrat. I want to be labeled as a person that’s concerned about people in his community, both in Greensboro and across the state.”