Former Georgia State Senator Eric B. Johnson met with students and faculty Friday morning for an Honors-affiliated breakfast discussion where the political mogul spoke of his time in office and answered pressing questions from the audience. Johnson most notably served as Minority Whip from 1997 to 1998, Minority Leader from 1999 to 2003 and Senate President Pro Tempore before deciding to run for the Georgia Governorship in 2010.
The Republican Party member focused his talk around the historical origins of the now Republican-based Georgia Senate. Johnson’s significant contribution to Georgia politics was his direct involvement in seeing to the election of a Republican majority senate in the first time in Georgia history, just at the turn of the century. This came after the redistricting scandal where Democrats allegedly redrew the voting maps to gain an unfair advantage over the rising Republican Party. This resulted in the Supreme Court case, Georgia v. Ashcroft, in which the judges created a new fair and balanced districting map. During the height of the scandal, Johnson admitted to wrapping yellow caution tape around the senate room in an act to espouse a sense of injustice from the gerrymandering crime that had been committed.
Despite his party loyalties, Johnson spoke candidly about the value of diplomacy, especially when dealing with the opposite party. The most prevalent advice he gave to students was to forgo ideologies for the greater good of helping others. The former senator reminisced on situations where party lines were often blurred and members from both parties would work together in an attempt to pass bipartisan legislation that he felt would elevate the wellbeing of his constituents. Johnson mentioned K12 education and environmental protection as issues that should transcend the triviality of political stubbornness.
By Michelle Samson