Thursday, December 5, 2013
WATERVILLE — David and Jennifer Johnson may be vying for the same seat in the Nov. 5 election, but their main concern is not who wins -- it’s how many people vote.
Jennifer and David Johnson are running against each other for Ward 1 clerk in November. Jennifer as democrat and David as republican.
Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans
David, a Republican, and his wife, Jennifer, a Democrat, are running against each other for warden in Ward 1.
Unlike many candidates who run in contested races, however, the Johnsons are not putting up signs or campaigning door-to-door.
They say there’s no need.
Just being from different political parties and vying for the same office has netted the married couple more publicity than they ever could have imagined.
After announcing their candidacies in August and being the subject of a Morning Sentinel story, the couple has been interviewed by a slew of media, including ABC News Radio, Fox News Network, New England Cable News and television news stations throughout Maine.
Jennifer Johnson, 36, was nominated for the warden position Aug. 7 at the Waterville Democratic City Committee caucus; David Johnson, 32, was nominated a week later at the Waterville Republican City Committee caucus.
Neither sought the nomination for any nefarious reason. They both were disappointed that so few people run for city positions in general and decided that if their race would call attention to that candidate apathy, more people might come out to vote.
Adding to the unusual nature of the warden race is a question on the Nov. 5 ballot asking voters to approve proposed changes to the city charter, which governs how the city operates.
One of those proposed changes is eliminating the practice of electing wardens and ward clerks and authorizing the city clerk to choose people to serve in those positions. Each of the seven city wards is supposed to have a warden and ward clerk, but city officials say not enough people run for the spots, so many are vacant.
A warden supervises areas and activities at the polling place on Election Day. Those activities include checking voters in, distributing ballots to voters, moving traffic in and out of the polling place, supervising the ballot machines and counting ballots at the end of the night, according to City Clerk Patty Dubois.
A ward clerk assists the warden. If a warden has to step out of the polling place temporarily, the ward clerk fills in.
If voters approve the proposed charter changes Nov. 5, the Johnson who wins the Ward 1 warden seat will serve the shortest term in history, according to the couple.
“We’re definitely encouraging people to approve the charter changes and make us jobless, and we’re encouraging more people to be involved at the national and local levels,” Jennifer Johnson said Tuesday.
A stay-at-home mother, Jennifer volunteers many hours at George J. Mitchell School, where her children Christopher, 8, and Sarah, 6, are enrolled. She also is raising money to open a food pantry at the school and collecting clothes for needy children.
The Johnsons, married 10 years, also have another daughter, Gabrielle, 4.
David Johnson works 50 to 60 hours a week as a lead solution architect for Oxford Networks, and was a volunteer member of the city’s Safety Council, which has disbanded.
Jennifer is a graduate of University of Alaska Fairbanks with a degree in geology; David has a degree in computer information systems from Northern Maine Technical College in Presque Isle.
They actually agree on some politically related issues, including marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose an abortion. But Jennifer is liberal when it comes to fiscal issues and David is conservative, they say. She believes more money should be spent on education; he supports education but says there are creative ways to keep costs down, such as through volunteerism.
David Johnson was working a long day Tuesday in Brunswick but took a short break to comment, urging voters to cast ballots Nov. 5.
“I, like many who are getting along in age, feel that voting is not just a right, but it’s a responsibility,” he said. “Ultimately, people that don’t show up and have the ability to do so obviously don’t care enough about the community to be a part of it, and that’s sad. Every election is important and every vote counts. If you care about Waterville, show up.”
Jennifer said the couple urges people from opposing political parties to compromise on important issues.
“We’re doing that in our marriage every day, and there’s no reason people in other parties can’t listen to each other and say, ‘I’m hearing where you’re coming from,’ and listen respectfully,” she said.
She urges people to educate themselves about candidates and issues before voting.
“If you don’t do that, then you get things happening in government that you might not approve of, like shutdowns. I thought that it (the government shutdown) was completely ridiculous. I thought that it was unnecessary and not in the best interest of the country. It was truly an embarrassment.”
She said the couple do not plan to be at the polls on Election Day, as he will be working and she will be volunteering at the Mitchell School.
“We don’t intend on being on the ballot again,” she said. “This has been fun, but it’s not where our passion to serve the community is.”
Instead, they plan to help Dubois, the city clerk, on future election days, she said.
Amy Calder — 861-9247