LITTLE ROCK — A Pulaski County justice of the peace from Jacksonville announced Friday that he will run for a state House seat as a Democrat despite having been a lifelong Republican.
Bob Johnson, 60, said he will seek the Democratic nomination for the District 42 House seat. The current holder of that office, Democrat Mark Perry of Jacksonville, is prevented by term limits from seeking a fourth House term.
“I grew up as a moderate Republican,” Johnson said in a news release. “My father was very close to Gov. (Winthrop) Rockefeller; it has been very personal to me. In the last several years, the party has just moved too far to the right and is dominated by people that say ‘no’ to everything. Because of that, I am now better described as a conservative Democrat.”
In an interview with the Arkansas News Bureau, Johnson added, “Saying ‘no’ to everything doesn’t work. We’ve got to work together and compromise.”
Johnson, a certified public accountant, has been on the Pulaski County Quorum Court since 2005. He has never before run for a state office.
Republicans made history in Arkansas last year by winning a majority of seats in both the House and Senate for the first time in nearly 140 years. The current makeup of the Senate is 21 Republicans and 13 Democrats.
One seat is vacant because Sen. Paul Bookout, D-Jonesboro, resigned last month after the state Ethics Commission fined him for taking campaign money for personal use. A special prosecutor has been appointed to conduct a criminal investigation.