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Steven Johnson is running for Michigan Representative. Courtesy
Steven Johnson is running for Michigan Rep­re­sen­tative. Courtesy

Steve Johnson said he loves to chal­lenge himself. That means running on a cold winter night and then taking a cold shower right after, starting a handyman company in Alaska, or going up against four chal­lengers in his first Repub­lican primary.

Johnson, who attended Hillsdale College for two semesters in 2014 and 2015, is running for the 72nd Dis­trict of the Michigan state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives against Democrat Steve Shoe­maker. He said he felt called by God to enter pol­itics and saw an oppor­tunity when Repub­lican Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Cale­donia, had reached his term limit maximum.

“I was looking at the federal gov­ernment, and the Repub­licans there failed to defund Planned Par­enthood,” he said. “That was really my turning point and told myself I just can’t trust Repub­licans anymore.”

Johnson won his primary in August, with almost 30 percent of the vote, defeating his nearest opponent by more than 500 votes. He said he was able to beat his better con­nected and well-funded oppo­nents because he had the “right message” for voters in the dis­trict, which includes parts of Allegan and Kent counties in western Michigan.

He quit a sub­stitute teaching job to knock on doors six days a week in order to reach more voters than his oppo­nents.

“I knew that was the only way I could win,” he said.

Since then, Johnson has con­tinued to work hard to win the Nov. 8 general election, even though voters chose the Repub­lican can­didate by a 68-to-32-percent margin in the 2014 state house election in his dis­trict.

“The state is going in the wrong direction,” Johnson said. “Taxes are going up, spending is going up, no movement on pro-life bills. Now we have trans­gender bills that would allow men into women’s bath­rooms. I felt it was incumbent upon me to step up and speak out and to run.”

Johnson’s most important moti­vation in running was speaking out for what he believes in, even if it meant losing, he said.

Johnson entered the U.S. Air Force after high school in October 2009, where he main­tained nuclear mis­siles in Montana. While in the Air Force, he com­pleted the first three years of an inter­dis­ci­plinary studies degree in business admin­is­tration and gov­ernment studies through Liberty University’s online classes.   

After being hon­orably dis­charged during the summer of 2016, Johnson enrolled at Hillsdale.

Fellow veteran junior Mike Lafountain, who lived with Johnson during his time at Hillsdale, said his housemate was always looking to chal­lenge himself and was his own man.

“He’s not heavy on the thinking side of pol­itics,” Lafountain said. “He’s more into getting out there.”

After a year at Hillsdale, Johnson decided to leave, saying he wanted to finish his degree at Liberty and pursue pol­itics.

Asso­ciate Dean of Men Jeffery Rogers spoke well of Johnson and said he did every­thing he could to try to con­vince him to stay at Hillsdale.

“I guess he got what he needed, and Hillsdale gave him a pump of the good,” Rogers said.

After leaving Hillsdale, Johnson interned in the office of then-Michigan state Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell. It lasted only three weeks, after reports released that Gamrat and fellow former state Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, were using state resources to cover up an affair.

Johnson said his stint working for Gamrat was used against him in one mailer during the primary cam­paign, but he said he didn’t know about the coverup. Johnson said he was vol­un­teering for a mis­sionary at a Christian wilderness camp in Canada when news of the scandal broke.

“I was never inves­ti­gated — the house business office, the police, they never even called me,” he said.

After hearing news about the scandal, Johnson left for Alaska and started his own handyman business. But he soon felt the pull of pol­itics and returned to West Michigan in October 2015. He con­tinued taking online classes from Liberty Uni­versity and worked as a sub­stitute teacher in Grand Rapids public schools and other nearby dis­tricts.

In January, he filed for the state house. Johnson is running on a pro-life, pro-second amendment, and reduced taxes platform.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    I worked in the cam­paign of a friend of mine who ended up in the Michigan Leg­is­lature and Senate and was termed out in both Houses. Cam­paigning is a lot of work and it has it’s ups and downs, but it can be a lot of fun. If I had any advice to anyone deciding to run for public office it would be to be ready to work very hard and mostly to be yourself and be honest with people-because the voters can usually see through phoniness. If he’s in a dis­trict that is that heavily Repub­lican he has a decided advantage, but you won’t win a seat unless you work for it. There are no gimme’s in elected gov­ernment, it all must be earned. Good luck, Mr. Johnson.