April 30, 2012

Rivals for Johnson’s congressional seat say new leadership needed

By GROMER JEFFERS, Jr. Staff Writer

The Democrats challenging longtime incumbent Eddie Bernice Johnson in the May 29 primary said the southern Dallas congressional district needs fresh leadership to solve its lingering problems. “Ms. Johnson has been there for 20 years. When you talk to some people, that’s not an asset,” state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway told The Dallas Morning News Editorial Board. “It’s time for fresh, energetic, new leadership in Washington.”

Taj Clayton, a lawyer who lives in DeSoto, agreed.

“I got really frustrated with seeing problems persist while surrounding areas prospered,” he said. “If we want new results, we’re going to need new public policies and new leadership.” Caraway, D-Dallas, and Clayton are running to oust Johnson, a fellow Democrat who has represented the 30th District since 1993. Johnson did not attend the Editorial Board screening. A campaign aide said she was interacting with 30th District voters.

“When it’s a choice between constituent services or the Editorial Board screening of a newspaper that last time endorsed a man who advocated the violent overthrow of the government, it’s an easy choice,” Johnson campaign spokesman Eddie Reeves said.

In 2010, The News recommended Republican Stephen Broden over Johnson but rescinded the choice after stories about Broden’s radical views were made public. The News has recommended Johnson in the past, but in 2010 editorial board members were concerned about revelations that she gave Congressional Black Caucus Foundation scholarships to her grandchildren and the children of one of her top aides.

At Monday’s candidate screenings, Caraway and Clayton declined to criticized Johnson or her record, choosing to answer questions about their own ideas. “We haven’t seen much economic development in south Dallas County,” said Clayton, who is making his first run for public office. He said that if he were elected to Congress, he would end tax credits for companies that take jobs overseas and give such incentives to companies that develop jobs in America. Caraway, a former Dallas council member, said she would tackle the economic problems in the district by developing partnerships with cities inside the district.

Editorial Board members questioned her about her activity in Austin. She could not point to a bill she had filed that helped her district, but she said she has worked on the House Urban Affairs Committee on all kinds of legislation that helped Dallas and Texas.

“I cannot, but I don’t have to,” Caraway said when asked to discuss one bill she filed to solve the economic woes in her district. “There is always legislation people put up. You either support it or don’t support it.”