Thirty counties make up Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District. It includes the cities of Donalsonville, Americus, Albany, Bainbridge, Butler, Buena Vista, Leesburg, Thomasville, Columbus, Cairo, Richland, Warner Robins, Macon, Morgan, Cuthbert, Ft Gaines, Georgetown, and Montezuma; along with many, many other small cities and towns.
After 17 days of driving a campaign themed pickup truck almost 5,000 miles — about the distance to Los Angeles and back — and 325 gallons of overpriced gas, Republican Congressional candidate Wayne Johnson has just finished a tour of every county in the district covering central and southwest Georgia, the only congressional candidate to do so.
“Every county counts!” said Johnson, a conservative Republican on the ballot in the May 24th-primary. “Every citizen in every county counts and that is why visiting every county in the district is important to me. “
Johnson’s listening tour left him more determined than ever to win the primary, and to go about retiring long-time liberal congressman Sanford Bishop. “The stories of struggling citizens and cash strapped counties,” Johnson said, “moved me to my very core.”
“People are hurting and need help on a host of issues,” said Johnson. “But one thing is clear, there is a real disconnect between what is going on in Washington and what is happening in central and southwest Georgia. People do not feel properly represented any more.”
“I have been a problem solver my entire career, and we have problems that need to be solved,” explained Johnson, a lifetime resident of Georgia who served two years as a senior member of the Trump Administration.
Some of the most common problems Johnson heard about on his “Every County Counts” tour included undercounts on the recently completed census, election integrity with absentee ballots, lack of healthcare facilities, too few jobs, a severe lack of funding for schools in rural counties, the inability to staff local law enforcement agencies, lack of water resources needed for farming, poor access to broadband internet and the ongoing rise in inflation.
“When someone can make more money being a cashier at the dollar store than does a law enforcement officer with 30+ years of experience, then we have a severe problem that needs solving” reflected Johnson after hearing this from several Sheriffs in the district.
Johnson further explained why leaders in every county he visited were concerned with the census count. Funding formulas for the next decade are set by the census, and an undercount of just a few hundred people can mean the loss of millions of dollars over the next 10 years.
“County leaders are dismayed that they believe there is really no way to fix a census undercount without risking a lot of local money in attempting to do so — money that they simply do not have,” said Johnson. “As your Congressman I will be determined to find a way to address this and believe it can be done.”
The need for decent wage-earning jobs was heard over and over. Johnson pointed out that “during my time in Washington at the U.S. Department of Education, I became aware of the availability of millions of dollars in concentrated training grants that can be used to provide Commercial Driver’s License and Nursing Assistant certificates.”
Another significant issue raised was the challenge of schools in rural counties where student populations are declining as younger resident families move to more urban centers. “Look, we have schools that don’t have enough money to keep their toilets working,” said Johnson. “A declining student population has created a crisis where there is not enough local revenue to cover basic upkeep and administrative services. This is a problem that we must solve.”
Johnson’s plan forward throughout his campaign is to facilitate ongoing conversations with the county leaders he has connected with on this initial tour. Bringing people together to ask questions, share perspectives and connect best-practices is a great way to discover solutions to the problems being faced. He said he would like to form working groups that meet regularly during his campaign and beyond.
“This tour of 30 counties convinced me that my background and experience are exactly what is needed by the people of this district in Washington,” said Johnson. “Doing this tour was intense, but I know that every second of the time was worth it. It has created within me a greater sense of urgency to do as much as I can to help residents of the 2nd District.”
Johnson is one of six candidates running for the Republican nomination for the right to face Congressman Sanford Bishop in November.