Despite reports that Hattiesburg businessman and former City Council President Kim Bradley would seek the Senate District 45 seat being vacated by State Sen. Billy Hudson, Bradley said this week that he will not be a candidate for the position.
Rep. Chris Johnson, R-House District 87, of Hattiesburg, announced Tuesday he would be seeking the seat being vacated by a man he’s known all of his life. And he will not be seeking re-election for House District 87, which will leave the seat open for candidates in the 2019 election.
“Yes, I thought about it and had informed Chris a while back that I was going to run for the seat,” said Bradley, after getting off the phone with Johnson to inform him of his change of plans. “I don’t have it in me to campaign for 11 or so months. I just called Chris to tell him.”
Bradley stepped down as president of the Hattiesburg City Council in 2016, a position he held for almost 10 years. He was elected to the council in June 2004.
“We had a good conversation,” Johnson said. “I told him that I couldn’t say I was upset about his decision.”
With talk that the Republican leadership in the House was not very pleased with Johnson’s decision to run for the State Senate seat after such a short stint in the House, Johnson said he really can’t say exactly what House leadership thinks about his decision to run for Senate.
“The conversations we have had about me running for Senate have all been cordial and we have discussed the pros and cons of such a move,” he said.
As far as “rumors” that Johnson might have been in line to be seated and potentially chair or co-chair some pretty big and important House committees, “that’s hard to know,” he said. “The Speaker has always been very good to me, but he made no commitments to what future chairmanship I might receive.”
Johnson said he has not heard of any others who plan to seek the seat, which includes Forrest and Perry counties.
“But an open Senate seat could draw a number of candidates, you just don’t know,” he said. Qualifying for the seat will run Jan. 2 through March 1, 2019. Those qualifying must turn in a petition signed by 50 people and pay a filing fee of $250.
Johnson is in his third year as a District 87 representative, which covers Forrest and Lamar counties. He served as vice chair of the Public Health and Human Services committee and was a member of the Agriculture; Banking and Financial Services; Corrections; Education; Performance-Based Budgeting; and Transportation committees.
He believes, if elected, he can have a greater influence and help his area much quicker as a senator.
“It’s smaller numbers in the Senate,” he said, noting 52 Senators vs. 122 House members.
“The ability to have influence and help your area is much greater in the Senate in the short term.Obviously, if you spent a long period of time in the House you can gain seniority and gain that kind of influence, but it would happen sooner in the Senate.”
Johnson feels with Hudson leaving, he is in a good position to help the area with the contacts and relationships he’s built while in Jackson.
Johnson said he’s known Hudson all of his life, having played baseball with his grandsons.
He admits he’s learned some things in the past three years at the state capital.
“I went up to Jackson originally with ideas of things I’d like to see changed and done, but didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I got up there and started learning,” he said.
As a result, a lot of his thought processes changed on how to do things.
Johnson is a graduate of Forrest County AHS and received an associate’s degree from Pearl River College and a degree in accounting from the University of Southern Mississippi.
He and wife, Wendi, have two children, Brennan, 10, and Emma Kathryn, 13.
Johnson said he’s ready to work hard to win the seat.