Local News

Kevin Johnson: State Senate, District 36 incumbent


TMT: Please tell us about yourself.

KJ: I am an honor graduate of the Manning High School Class of 1978. I graduated in May, 1982 from the University of South Carolina. I double majored and received the Bachelor of Science Degree in Management and Marketing. I graduated from several leadership and professional programs throughout South Carolina including Leadership South Carolina, the S.C. Executive Institute and the Riley Diversity Program, to name a few. I am currently an Education Fellow and a Health Policy Fellow. I am the recipient of two Honorary Doctorate Degrees from religious schools in S.C.  My wife, Gloria, and I have three adult children, Kimberly, Kenneth and Kyndra. My hobbies include sports and traveling.

TMT: Why are you running for State Senator?

KJ: I just finished my 12th year as a state senator. I am proud of the services that I have rendered and of my accomplishments. However, there is much more work that needs to be done in order to continue to improve the quality of life in South Carolina and in Senate District 36. It was impressed upon me by many that my experience, leadership skills and seniority in the senate makes me uniquely qualified to best help bring about these improvements. .

TMT: Who encouraged you to run?

KJ: After consultation with my family, I initially made the decision not to run for re-election. I had a few other options that I wanted to pursue. As my intentions became public, many of my friends and supporters asked me to reconsider. When we returned to session in January, many of my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, also urged me to seek re-election and all of them made compelling statements . After much thought and prayer, I changed my mind and decided to run again.

TMT: How would you describe your personal political ideology and/or affiliation?

KJ: I am a member of the Democratic Party.

TMT: How have you been involved in the community?

  KJ: I am very proud of my community involvement. Before becoming an elected official, and as a young man, I served on a variety of boards and commissions including the Harvin Clarendon County Library Board, the Clarendon County Chamber of Commerce Board, the Black River Healthcare Board (currently HopeHealth Board) and I served as a board member for Clarendon School District 2 for twelve years. I served 6 years as a member of Manning City Council before being elected Mayor of Manning, where I served for 11 years. I served one term in the S.C. House of Representatives before being elected to the S.C. Senate in 2012.

TMT: What endorsements have you received?

KJ: I am the recipient of many endorsements from leaders and elected officials from inside and outside of District 36 and I have been endorsed by several organizations. Endorsements are still coming in.

TMT: How are you funding your campaign?

KJ: My campaign is primarily funded by the generosity of my friends and supporters, of which I am very thankful and appreciative. I also receive donations from several Political Action Committees who recognize all of the hard work that I do on behalf of South Carolina and who understands the importance and necessity of my re-election.

TMT: What are the three most common issues voters are bringing up to you as you campaign?

KJ: Public education, quality and affordable healthcare and jobs that pay good wages and offer good benefits.

TMT: How do you plan to address income inequality and promote economic growth in your district?

KJ: Every year for the last several years, I filed a bill that would increase the minimum wage in S.C.  and I file and cosponsor  a bill that requires equal pay for women. The key to economic growth in our area is a good public education system, which has always been my number one priority 

TMT: How will you work to improve access to quality healthcare and affordable education in your district?

KJ: As I previously mentioned, I file a bill to expand Medicaid in S.C. every year. Medicaid Expansion will automatically provide quality and affordable healthcare to at least 200,000 South Carolinians who have incomes far less than the federal poverty level. Only 10% of the cost of Medicaid Expansion will be paid for by the State of S.C.  Many states have expanded Medicaid in an attempt to make sure that more of their citizens have healthcare. Some of these states are more conservative than S.C.  As to affordable education, I cosponsored the bill that provides students in S.C. with a free technical college education and I always support providing more funding for our colleges and universities that allows them to freeze increases in tuition. As a member of the S.C. Education Oversight Committee and as a member of the Senate Finance Committee’s K-12 Education subcommittee, we are always exploring ways to improve education in S.C. and to make it more affordable.

TMT: How would you handle situations where your party’s leadership takes a position that conflicts with the interests of your constituents?

KJ: My Senate colleagues know and respect the fact that the interests of my constituents come first.

TMT: Do you believe that registered Democrats should be able to vote in Republican primaries and vice versa? Why or why not?

KJ: I am a proponent of closed primaries. As you are aware, my opponent and some of his most loyal supporters have publicly called for Republicans to vote in the Democratic Primary for him and in attempt to oust me. To me, that is a slap in the face to the Republican candidates who are working hard on the campaign trail and who are spending lots of money in an attempt to win the support of the Republican voters. That is a selfish scheme that is in total opposition to the purpose of primary elections. The purpose of primaries is to decide which member of each party will be on the ballot for the general election. To do otherwise undermines the intent and the  will of the voters of each party and in my opinion says a lot about those who suggest this.

TMT: If you were to win the primary, would you broaden your message to appeal to voters outside your own party? If so, how?   

KJ: I am proud of the support that I receive from voters who are of a different party. I receive that support because of my actions and because I am known and respected for doing the right thing iregardless if political affiliation. I have a great relationship with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and I am already known to have a broad message 

TMT: The division between political parties in Clarendon County seems to be at all-time high. How would you promote or encourage unity and collaboration among our county’s elected officials?

KJ: For the most part, politics in Clarendon County has always been  cordial until a few years ago. Unfortunately, new people moved here and most of that has changed. Some of the newcomers chose to campaign in a divisive and mean spirited manner as opposed to campaigning on the issues and trying to convince the voters that they are the best candidates for the position. More campaigning is now based on negativity rather than on the platform of each of the candidates. Unfortunately, this issue is not unique to just Clarendon County. More and more voters strive on and promote the divisiveness. Thankfully, they are in the minority. Most of the elected and public officials have great working relationships with each other. We must continue to build on that.

TMT: What do you feel sets you apart from the other candidates?

KJ: Experience and seniority. No other candidate in this race has the experience as an elected or appointed official that I have. I have the respect of all of my senate colleagues and other leaders from all over S.C. The leadership of the senate constantly demonstrates the confidence and trust that they have in me and my abilities by regularly appointing me to serve on very important special committees. Also, my seniority in the senate further sets me apart from the other candidates. Practically everything that happens in the senate is based on seniority. Because of my seniority I serve on the most important senate committees including finance, education, medical affairs, labor, commerce and industry and I am the ranking Democrat on the family and veterans services committee. Because of my seniority I have brought tens of millions of dollars, including a new elementary school, to District 36. This funding helps and assists my constituents in a variety of ways. As the senator for District 36 for the past 12 years I have delivered on just about every request that I received from the four counties, the many towns and cities and the various school districts that I represent. My seniority has allowed me to help and assist countless numbers of constituents with issues that they have with state agencies. I have dependable contacts and liaisons in each agency which allows me to resolve issues for those who I represent in a timely manner . All of this comes with experience, seniority and the respect that I have earned over the years and that none of the other candidates possess as it relates to this position, and quite frankly, keeping that experience and seniority in District 36 is what convinced me to run for re-election and it is in the best interest of the constituents.