In this time of hyperpartisanship – and a seemingly growing public disenchantment with it - it seems like an opportune time for a strong independent candidacy.
Lars Johnson hopes he represents that option for a lot of people. The self-proclaimed "Food Safety Guy" – a former restaurant professional, he worked in food safety and Health Department relations before starting his own consulting in training business in 2007 – and Rochester resident hopes to run a successful race as a dark house candidate for Minnesota’s District 1 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Johnson, who visited the Daily Globe Thursday morning, said that by running party-free, he ultimately doesn’t have to answer to anyone but his district’s constituents.
"One of the frustrations of being a party person is that, well, who do you answer if you’re in the House – the party leader or whip … and ultimately there’s the president," Johnson explained. "If a person is going to be taxing and spending on behalf of the people of your district, then you need to answer to the people of your distrtict, and that’s a lot easier if you’re party-free in my opinion."
Johnson believes the most important aspect of serving as a congressman is upholding our nation’s constitution.
"The way I look at is the U.S Constitution is a job description for the federal government and elected and appointed officials," he said. "We’ve gotten so far off the mark and the government has gotten so big that the government has taken on responsibilities that it wasn’t originally designed to take care of."
Johnson offered a constitutional angle on the ongoing debate over health care reform.
"Right now we’re very focused on "who’s going to help me pay for the care" and the endless red tape and labryinths to go to get the money," he said. "The alternative is, leave it to the states to disccuss that. Here’s a prime example: What’s the deal that Ben Nelson (Nebraska senator) cut for his state? Harry Reid, one of his statements on the final healthcare bill, was, ‘There are 100 senators, and if there isn’t something for eveyone in there, it’s their fault.’ If that doesn’t describe the distortion of what the federal government should be, nothing else does."
Johnson strongly believes there should not be imposed health care for small businesses and that states should have more freedom when it comes to federal taxation.
"I’m honestly looking, and I can’t find it in the Constitution, where there was supposed to be a per-capita tax on individuals’ income," he stated. "I think that the federal government should be handing a bill to the 50 states, and the 50 states deciding how they pay that bill."
Although the Constitution does state that Congress should set its own pay, Johnson acknowIedged, "I think wer’e at the point where that’s not a good idea." Instead, he suggested, a committee of state legislatures would decide the pay and benefits for all congressmen. Johnson also thinks the highest tax bracket should be "$1 below the lowest congressional member’s pay … because they’re automatically in highest tax bracket, and they’re going to feel the pain like everyone else."
"Along with that, I think it would be important to eliminate pensions for federally elected officials," he added. "if you and anyone in this area are making $150,000 a year, don’t you think you’d be able to set aside some money for your own retirement? Why should someone hold a job for six years and collect a pension for the rest of their life?"
As a small businessman, Johnson fears a growing federal government would interfere with his chance to develop his own successful enterprise.
"One of the things I see coming down the road is if government gets more involved in private industry, other businesses will have to compete with the government," he said. "I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if a government newspaper opened in town."
Johnson also offered this statement when asked about his views on the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I think that the role of the military should be first and foremost to protect our borders," he said. "Once we start stepping out and trying to make nations agreeable to American interests, we start running into problems that can create wars. I’m not comfortable sending our men and women off to battle in an undeclared war. … We should not be nation building. When they (any nation) hits a critical mass of people who think there needs to be change like we did … they can step up and do something about that."
Johnson will need to collect 1,000 signatures from district residents between July 6-20 to get on the November ballot.
"I think we’ve had so much hope and change, people want more change," he said, "This is a perfect time."