Jim Johnson holds lively town hall in Newark days before primary

By Michael Hill

“I’m going to lay down my burden down by the riverside!”

Who knew gubernatorial candidate Jim Johnson could carry such a note. He did at his town hall at New Community Corporation in Newark to an audience of mostly bused-in seniors who earlier had joined a pastor in what sounded like a deep south, midsummer revival.

Johnson said the song “To Study War No More” was relevant to the June 6 primary.

“I think it is a righteous battle and it is a battle to actually help all of us to lay down the burden of a government and a group of insiders who have not served any of us for many generations,” he said.

A familiar theme for the lawyer, New Jersey native and former Treasury undersecretary in the Clinton administration in his first crack at the ballot box.

“You may not know my name but you know my work,” Johnson said.

Johnson says he does most of his civic work away from the headlines and bright lights. Things such as heading up a committee to end the racial profiling practices of New Jersey State Troopers. He said it was about listening.

“Time and again, I have found that when you are prepared to listen, as opposed to this governor who often will tell people to sit down and shut up, when you are prepared to listen you can change your mind and change other minds. You change the mind, you change the man. You change the mind, you change the woman. You change how we all think, you change our community,” Johnson said.

Johnson hopes voters listen to his unwavering criticism of how public opinion poll front-runner Phil Murphy is spending millions of his own money to garner support and prime positions on county ballots. He took issue with Murphy saying he’d accept public financing in the general election. Murphy stated he would in a July 2015 ELEC filing.

“He has done everything to turn public finance upside down,” Johnson said.

Johnson fielded questions on several topics including abortion.

“Her decision with her spiritual adviser, not with a politician intruding into, and with her doctor, not with a politician,” he said.

Someone in the audience asked, “What makes you better than all the other candidates?”

“This mission is a mission of service,” Johnson replied.

The primary campaign is in the homestretch. Johnson recognizes his deficits in opinion polls and spending to Murphy. So what’s he banking on at the ballot box?

“I hope that they’ve taken throughout this process an open mind and took a hard look on what it requires to be governor,” Johnson said.

Johnson wrapped up this town hall by having this crowd acknowledge how to break the mold.

“If you want something you never had, you got to do something you never did,” Johnson and the crowd said.

The primary is five days away.