As Election Day nears, The Means Report wants to make sure that voters are prepared when they go to the polls. To help with that, they welcomed Francys Johnson – the Democratic Candidate for the Georgia District 12 Congressional Seat.
Brad Means: We’re gonna focus on the future of the 12th Congressional District in Georgia. We’re gonna meet Francys Johnson. Some people in the news room said, “Who’s your guest today?” I said, “Francys Johnson.” They said, “You mean, that sign I saw? “I think he’s running for Congress. “I don’t know what district.” You’re gonna know who Francys Johnson is at the conclusion of The Means Report I assure you. His name is out there and his hopes are high for a victory on November 6th. What about the democratic platform? What does he wanna push if elected to Congress and what is #PeopleFirst? Answers to all of these questions on The Means Report today with Francys Johnson. And Mr. Johnson, thank you for joining us today. Comin’ up from Statesboro, Georgia, home of the great Georgia Southern University and thank you for your time.
Francys Johnson: Absolutely, glad to be here. Glad to be with your viewers as well. There is a big game in Statesboro today and we’re lookin’ forward to getting back down on the road to watch it.
Brad Means: Yeah, a lot of people are excited about that. We record The Means Report on a Thursday, so when you watch it we’ll know the outcome. Hopefully the Eagles will be victorious. Why are you running? Rick Allen is the incumbent. He wants another term. You don’t think he deserves one. You look at the economy, you look at the stock market, things seem to be goin’ just fine.
Francys Johnson: For some people, but not for the vast majority of the folks who call the 12th Congressional District home. 12th Congressional District is made up of 19 counties, which include a portion of Columbia County, all of Richmond County, and lots of very rural, small counties stretch all the way over to Dublin and down to Douglass, and through Effingham County near Savannah, Georgia and throughout that district, in 12 of those counties, they’ve lost jobs over the last four years. More than 25% of the district is in poverty. We’re number 45th in terms of workforce readiness as a state, and this region of the state is lagging behind. Even the states totals we’re 50th in infant mortality. We can do better.
Brad Means: Are you under the impression that you’re being ignored in Washington?
Francys Johnson: Well, not that I’m being ignored, but people are being ignored.
Brad Means: The people.
Francys Johnson: That’s right.
Brad Means: The people in the district.
Francys Johnson: That’s right, corporate interest prevails in Washington D.C. and for the love of money, if it makes money, it’s right and that’s wrong. It’s wrong for the people of Augusta and the people of Statesboro, Swainsborough and Waynesborough who need a Congressman to fight for them for the things that we value here.
Brad Means: A lot of times when I drive through the small towns of the 12th District, I will see that a factory has closed and that can be devastating. Is that what you’re seeing when you’re lookin’ at these job shortages and these job losses? Is the huge employer leaves town?
Francys Johnson: Yes, when my opponent brags about seven million jobs, he’s talkin’ about jobs not in the 12th District. He’s talkin’ about aggregate jobs in other places and sure, the economy is improving in some places, but it hadn’t hit rural America because we hadn’t focused on an investment in rural America. Milan, Swanesborough, Statesborough, Waynesborough, all of those places are hurting because we haven’t put the real infrastructure in place to make sure that they have the foundations and the fundamentals to grow their economy.
Brad Means: So how does that work? Is it just a matter of getting money for roads, bridges, for industrial sites and then these big companies might pick you? ‘Cause I’m with ya I think you know, life would be so much better if our small towns could have more thriving industry ’cause it kills ’em if they don’t. Is it all infrastructure?
Francys Johnson: No not all of it’s structure but it starts with infrastructure. It starts with making sure we re-commit to rural America like we did after The Great Depression. We come in with real programs for infrastructure but it continues with re-imagining education, not just K through 12 education but it starts before that with universal Pre-K and after secondary with debt-free technical and higher education. It continues with doin’ something about healthcare. It’s 1/5 of our economy and right now my opponents plan, the President’s plan is to let it collapse. 38% of the people in this district get their healthcare from the children’s health insurance program, Medicare and Medicaid. We can’t afford to let my opponent go back to Congress. He plans to cut $2 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid and social security’s on the chopping block as well.
Brad Means: Talkin’ about the President, President Trump and Congress, passed tax reform during his first two years in office. It’s led to in many cases, bigger paychecks for people and it’s led-
Francys Johnson: $1.50 is the average in the take home pay for folks so millionaires and billionaires got a big refund and average working Americans got $1.50. Paul Ryan said, “You may be able to save up that $1.50 “to afford the cost of a Costco membership.”
Brad Means: Would you kill those reforms if you got elected?
Francys Johnson: No, we would enact real reforms that pass meaningful tax relief to small businesses, and hardworking, middle income earners in America. That’s the kinda tax relief the American people want. They don’t want a fraud pushed on them to allow billionaires and millionaires to be able to take a second deduction on a yacht. They want real reform that means that they have more of their own money to spend in their own communities. That’s how you grow our economy.
Brad Means: You know we hear so much in Augusta and even Aiken, Columbia County for sure, about cyber and how it’s changing this area and how it’s really putting us on the map but then I hear you talking about the woes of small towns in District 12, and I wonder are we just living in a bubble up here and we’re not aware of the troubles of other folks?
Francys Johnson: Of course not, Augusta is the economic engine of the 12th Congressional District, but make no mistake about it, with all that is going on in cyber, your viewers should know that their Congressman voted against a $348 million appropriation that would have supported the cyber command here. It was directly going to support and secure this mid-term election against interference from Russia and other places that want to come in and have a say in our election. Who votes against $348 million, a large portion of which would come right here to Augusta? That’s what your Congressman did. I think if you wanna change that, you should elect someone else.
Brad Means: What about farmers? I know that you come from a farming background–
Francys Johnson: That’s right.
Brad Means: And it’s important to you. What are they telling you that they need right now and going forward?
Francys Johnson: That’s right, before anybody call me pastor or lawyer or professor they called me farm boy and I’m grateful for those roots in Sylvania, Georgia. What they’re saying to me, my Vidalia onion farmers, pecan farmers, especially farmers like blueberries, they’re saying that the tariffs are a massive tax that are hurting their businesses. And the President’s proposed $12 billion welfare check simply doesn’t cut it. It won’t even help to cover our soybean farmers who are the largest exporters soybeans to China. Brazil is right there to take up those markets that we’ve took in the last 25 years to develop. They’re also saying that it is a shame, a crying shame, that for the first time in the modern era, there’s not a farmer bill. Our Congressman is on the agriculture committee. It’s on the conference committee to reconcile the Senate and the House versions of those bills and failed to get it done. I don’t think we should re-elect failure.
Brad Means: Rick Allen when he was here said that he’s working hard as a member of the agriculture committee and as a proponent of giving farmers what they need to come up with subsidies, to come up with ways to supplement their income so that in the face of these tariffs, they don’t go out of business. He said he’s tryin’.
Francys Johnson: He could stand up to his President and say this is an unnecessary tariff war that we don’t need and it’s hurting our farmers. That’s what we expect from our member in the House of Representatives. To not be beholden to the President, to not tote that party line, but to represent and put people first. That’s what that means and he’s not doing that. As a matter of fact, this Congressman has not passed a single of piece of legislation. Now a single one in four years in the House of Representatives. It’s time to put someone in who can get the job done.
Brad Means: But if not tariffs, and we’ll get off tariffs in a second here, how do we keep other nations from taking advantage of us? You know, what do we do to protect our interests and make sure that there’s a balance when trading with other nations if not tariffs?
Francys Johnson: Oh boy, folks who talk about the trade imbalance fail to appreciate that that trade imbalance has fueled our economy for the last 25 years. We export certainly much more than we import because what we’re exporting are high end goods like aircrafts and high technology pieces and what they’re importing to us is… pales in comparison to that. So the so called trade imbalance is a, is very misleading and they know it. This is an attempt to start a crisis so that Donald Trump can have a win and the only people who are gonna gain are people who are, who always gain. Those at the 1%, those at the very top and that seems to be who our Congressman is workin’ for.
Brad Means: How ’bout military strength? Where do you stand on our nation’s military? President Trump promising to make them stronger than ever, mostly through more funding. You like that?
Francys Johnson: He’s promising to make our military contractors stronger than ever. Richer than ever, but to the hard working men and women of the military, very little of that will ever go down to them. It won’t trickle down to them. If you elect me to Congress, I’ll focus on a couple of things. First, improving the quality of the experience for our men and women in the service as well as keepin’ the promises we made to them once they exit the military. We need a 21st Century GI Bill. The VA in our area is woefully under funded and the quality is not where it needs to be. The Dublin VA for example, has the lowest rating of all the VA Hospitals in the network. It’s unacceptable and we don’t need more promises. The Congressman has had four years to do his job and hadn’t done it.
Brad Means: Rick Allen told you at the debate that we attended Tuesday night in Atlanta that he has seen the Dublin VA recently get a big boost and that things are on the upswing for them down there.
Francys Johnson: Well, you know, I looked for that writing–
Brad Means: You don’t believe him do you?
Francys Johnson: I don’t believe him and it’s hard to believe someone who looks directly at the camera and lies to seniors and says, “I’m going “to protect Medicare.” That’s the ad he’s runnin’ across the district right now. When he’s already signed off, his party has and his President, on the 2019 proposed budget that cuts $579 billion from Medicare and $1.5 trillion at $1.5 trillion from Medicaid. $2 trillion, that would leave that program crippled. Social security is on the chopping block as well and these are sacred promises. These aren’t entitlements. These are promises that we have to keep as a country.
Brad Means: We’re talkin’ to Francys Johnson. You’re candidate on the Democratic side in District 12 in Georgia. When we come back, more from the candidate and what his hopes and dreams are for the state of Georgia, how it can get better as election day approaches. On The Means Report.
Brad Means: Welcome back to The Means Report. We’re talking to Francys Johnson, candidate for Congress in District 12, wants to unseat Rick Allen. Says he can do a lot better job than the incumbent. Mr. Johnson, let’s talk about young people. I know you mentioned in the beginning and I should have mentioned at the top of the broadcast, your background as an attorney, as a pastor, as a civil rights advocate, very prominent in the NAACP. Do you get to preach anymore? Do you ever get back to the pulpit?
Francys Johnson: Of course–
Brad Means: Yeah.
Francys Johnson: Every Sunday.
Brad Means: Oh, every Sunday? You’re still full-time preachin’?
Francys Johnson: I’m a full-time pastor of two small churches.
Brad Means: Two?
Francys Johnson: In rural Georgia so you know, this is a calling. I feel very called to the pulpit. I felt very called to the well of a court room, as an advocate, and I’m only running because this is another way to serve people, ultimately.
Brad Means: Lemme ask you this, focusing on young people, do you look out from your pulpit and see them anymore? Do they go to church? And if not what can we do to get ’em back?
Francys Johnson: They’re losing faith in our institutions. They’re losing faith in our institutions because we aren’t keeping our word. We’ve made promises to our seniors that now we want to renegotiate in terms of Medicare, Medicaid, and social security. We made promises to our Veterans that we aren’t keeping. What they hear is excuse after excuse after excuse and no one says here am I, I’ll take responsibility. No one is saying I will sacrifice my own short-term gain to invest in the long-term benefit of others and I think that’s what’s missing critically across our government and across our society.
Brad Means: What about the opiod crisis? You see that, it doesn’t matter, rich or poor, black or white, small town America, big town America. What can we do to get people off of pain killers and help break this cycle?
Francys Johnson: Well we can start by not treating it like a criminal justice issue and treating it as a medical issue. The problem with that is we have a fragmented medical system and mental health system and we have a Congressman right now, who doesn’t believe that every person deserves a right to health care. And he has a plan to let what little health care we have collapse. You can’t solve the opiod crisis if you can’t get people into a pathway where they can get the medical attention that they need. Where they can get off of prescription drugs and get on a pathway to holistic living. And so, if you wanna do somethin’ about the opiod crisis you can’t just throw money at it, if you’re not willing to fix the health care system. He’s had four years to do it. The Republican Caucus said they had a better plan for six years while they were opposed to the Affordable Care Act. President ran for two years for President, saying he had a better plan and we haven’t seen it yet.
Brad Means: Let’s talk about our ports. We have Savannah certainly that’s getting bigger and better all the time.
Francys Johnson: Fourth largest port in the world.
Brad Means: Yeah, I mean it’s awesome.
Francys Johnson: Yes.
Brad Means: Charleston, Jacksonville, how can we use the ports to benefit this part of Georgia? And I know that this is something that you’re very passionate about?
Francys Johnson: It goes back to those critical investments and infrastructure. You know, when we came out of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and others invested over the long term to electrify or rule Georgia, for example. Well, they understood that they were investing not just for the short-term gains over an election cycle but for 10, 20, and 50 years out. We’ve got to do that again. We got a fragmented rail line that doesn’t allow us to connect those ports to the largest cargo operation in the world, Hartsville-Atlanta. We can’t take advantage of it. We don’t have enough kinetic tissue in terms of two lane highways. Our interstate systems are over capacity and no one’s taking the real hard look at where our priorities are. Instead, we’re giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires for their second yachts instead of doing the hard investments that we need to make to put America on the footing for the next 50 to 100 years.
Brad Means: How are we doing as a nation, as a state, when it comes to race relations and where should we go?
Francys Johnson: Well, I tell ya, we’re in a critical moment. Right now we are still discovering bombs that have been mailed to politicians and public figures. This is a tough time. I think this is not a time of left versus right or Republican versus Democrat. It’s certainly not red versus blue. We have to remember we’re all on the same team. Red, white, and blue, and I think we have to lead with our values and one of our values that I think is in stark contrast in this election is the value of what… Of who gets to decide in our democracy? My opponent believes in a democracy based on subtraction. I believe in democracy based on addition and when you look at our experiment, over the 232 years of this country, when we were founded in 1787, it didn’t include me, it didn’t include women, it didn’t include indigenous people who occupied these lands, the Cherokee and others far before any ships came, but through work. Through hard work, through fights and amendments and even wars, we have added to this democracy. And I think we are best when we remember who we are in that great history.
Brad Means: What does that look like in Congress though because we recently saw an ugly display of what it looks like when people don’t get along in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. So how do you get up there to D.C., a town that’s just filled with such controversy and discord, and make people unite?
Francys Johnson: Well, you remember your values and I was raised like I said, near Savay on that farm and when you’re raised on a farm, you are raised with a cooperative value. Our neighbors never put anything in the ground without expecting that we would help them take it out. Our animals got out. We fully expected our neighbors would help us to bring them in. When you’re raised in an environment like I was raised by the people I was raised with. You have a value that says, what can we do together where’s the common good, how do we advance beyond our own selfish interests so that we might do something better for all of us. That’s what government is. It’s not evil as my opponent describes. Government is simply what we decide to do together that we can not do as well by ourselves.
Brad Means: What about law enforcement. What do you hear from the men and women who protect and serve each day and what could you offer them from the federal level?
Francys Johnson: Well, they wanna a representative that’s not gonna offer lip surface. You know, back the blue, that’s a slogan. At the same time these folks will not pass protections for First Responders and 9-11. They won’t pass additional support for police who are some of the best, least paid public servants that we have. You can count on Francys Johnson, who’s been an officer of the court for a very long time. They go to Washington D.C. and make sure the United States have what they need to the job that they have to do. It’s a tough job and they need all the support they can get.
Brad Means: I have to ask every candidate who comes through here–
Francys Johnson: Sure.
Brad Means: About where they stand on education. How are teachers, just like our law enforcers, can get the help they need.
Francys Johnson: Sure, I got a great public education and a good public education is the strongest rung on the ladder of economic mobility in this country. It is the envy of the world. It was the envy of the world. We have to restore it by re-imagining education and producing a 21st Century education regime that truly prepares our students for the global opportunities which are theirs. I went to Georgia Southern University and the University of Georgia. Two great public institutions in this area. My opponent went to Auburn. I’ll just throw that our there.
Brad Means: He did, he did.
Francys Johnson: He did, that’s right. You know, I was able to take those degrees and come back home and to open up an office on Main Street because I graduated with such little debt. That was a public investment in me, in those who graduated in that area that is hard to find for folks graduating today. They’re graduating with 30 times the debt that I graduated with, which means they have little opportunity to come back to small places like Sylvania, Statesborough, Waynesborough, and make a real difference where they love. You shouldn’t have to choose where you live for a paycheck over where you love.
Brad Means: What do you think about the state of our young people today? Aside from the debt that they face, aside from the stresses that all young people see when they get out into the real world. Is our nation in good hands when it comes to our future leaders?
Francys Johnson: Oh, I am absolutely amazed by young people. I think that they are engaged. I think they are really skeptical of all that has come before and that’s a good thing. I think they will renew our democracy and I think the best is yet to come for this country. There are some who believe that our best days are behind us and they attend to slogans like “Make America Great Again” as if our best days was in some distant past. But those of us, who truly believe in this experiment we call America, we believe for our children and their children, that the best is truly yet to come. That our best days are ahead and if I get to Congress we’ll work hard with anyone, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, not beholden to any President, certainly not beholden to any party but doing what’s in the best interest of all of us as we move this country forward.
Brad Means: Well Francys Johnson, thank you so much for your time today. Thanks for running. So many people sit on the sidelines and don’t even try and best of luck to you as the campaign winds down.
Francys Johnson: Thank you so much for having me today.
Brad Means: Absolutely, you are always welcome on The Means Report, Francys Johnson, District 12, November 6th is election day.