Johnson, a Mather House senior, will challenge Democratic incumbent Alice K. Wolf to represent the district, which comprises Harvard and Porter Square as well as part of the area around Central Square.
Johnson was recruited by a Mass. Green Party commission designed to search for people to run for local office across the state.
Though first proposed as a joke, Johnson took the invitation seriously and agreed to run. She needs 150 valid signatures from registered Greens or unaffiliated voters in order to get on the ballot officially. Right now she has 95 signatures, but she and a team of supporters will spend this weekend canvassing for their goal of 300 pre-validated signatures.
Last night, the personable Johnson portrayed herself as an outsider and a political novice. She allowed an “I hate him” to slip out when referring to President Bush and called Massachusetts Speaker of the House Thomas M. Finneran a “dictator” for the way he manages the State House floor.
Speaking casually to a group of 20 last night, Johnson drew on her youthful social life, joking that her ideas about transportation went beyond just getting home “on the weekend after I go clubbing.”
“I’ll admit when I don’t know something,” she said after forgetting the correct name for the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court and asking the audience for assistance. “It’s a good thing.”
According to Johnson, she is looking to provide an alternative to Wolf who has run uncontested in every general election since her first in 1996. Johnson called this “embarrassing” to Massachusetts, pointing to the fact that only 33 percent of seats in the State House were contested in 2002.
“If I didn’t run, there would be no one providing an alternative voice for this district,” Johnson said. “Alice Wolf has never had opposition in the general election. The only way to hold your politicians accountable is to vote for anyone else.”
Johnson conceded last night that Wolf has done a good job considering that she is a Democrat, but Johnson said she wants to push liberal politics even further.
“[Wolf] is one of the most liberal members in the House. She can be trusted to vote well on issues. But she’s not perfect,” said Johnson. “Anyone who supports Speaker Finneran doesn’t understand how democracy works and she supports him. She’s part of a Democratic structure that is not working.”
As an intern for State Representative Karen E. Spilka, who represents the 7th Middlesex District, Johnson said that every bill she cared for was stopped before coming to the floor for a vote. Johnson blamed interpersonal politicking within the Democratic majority for what she sees as inefficiency.
Johnson’s campaign chair Sarah K. Burke ’05 echoed this sentiment, saying that although Wolf is a “fantastic candidate,” her ties to the Democratic Party force her to toe the party line at the expense of following the will of her liberal constituency.
Johnson’s platform involves focusing on women’s safety, improving the transportation system, fighting for affordable housing systems and working towards a single-payer health care system. Johnson said she personally relates to these issues because as a soon-to-be graduate she is looking for a job.
“When you graduate, you lose your nice housing, you lose your health care. Issues of affordable housing do matter. Since rent control has been abolished, housing prices have skyrocketed,” said Johnson. “If I need to make a ruckus to get things going on, I will do that.”
Johnson said she has a good chance of winning, despite running as a Green Party candidate in a Democratic stronghold.
“She has a chance of winning if she’s able to get her name out there,” said Stephen H. Milder ’04, member of the Harvard College Greens. “Alice [Wolf] has been in office for quite awhile. It will be tough. There is no reason to presume [Johnson] will win.”
Burke said that the arena for Green Party success rests in local, not national, politics because many voters are still angry about how Ralph Nader tilted the 2000 presidential election toward Bush.
Johnson plans on applying to graduate school and working to help herself get by if her bid for office fails.
“If elected, it’d be nice ’cause I’d be helping others get by,” Johnson said. “Plus, it’d be a great first job.”
—Staff writer Robin M. Peguero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.