“One thing about Overstock, we’ve been successful because we’ve gleaned out processes — we’ve cut middlemen out,” Johnson told The Times-Independent. “We continually look at where there’s fat in the system. Once we think we’ve wrung all the fat out, we look again. We always find more. I think that’s the kind of thing we need to bring to government, to say ‘where’s the fat and where can we wring it out?’ And if we can wring something we can put those extra dollars into education.”
Johnson, who is running for the Republican nomination against incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert, said he is seeking public office because he cares about Utah’s future. At the town hall meeting, Johnson spoke favorably of Herbert, but said the current governor is a “career politician” who has been in public office since 1990, including serving as governor for two terms.
“My campaign slogan is ‘Hire JJ’ so I want people to put me through a rigorous interview process,” Johnson said. “I want them to ask me questions and then I always say ‘what should I know that is unique to your set of concerns?’”
As a candidate, Johnson said he favors state ownership and control of public lands, as opposed to federal control. He paraphrased a quote attributed to former Pres. Ronald Reagan: “The federal government operates under the mistaken and arrogant assumption that states can’t manage their own affairs.”
Although he acknowledged the divisiveness of public lands issues in Utah, he said his leadership will bring the states’ varied interest groups together.
“I think the common goal of Utah is to preserve land. We all choose to live here for our reasons, we don’t want to foul our own nest,” Johnson said. “There’s a group that says, ‘we care about the land,’ and there’s another that says, ‘we care about the land too, and we want to make the land productive.’ You’re never going to get them to align fingers and hands perfectly. But a good leader is going to get the palms to align. We’re going to protect the land, we’re going to make it productive, and we’re going to make it healthier.”
During the town hall on Oct. 15, Moab resident and city council candidate Kelly Green asked Johnson about those public lands issues. Johnson replied that through negotiation and possibly litigation, solutions may be found.
“I will bet that before January 2017, there will be a new monument in Utah [under the Antiquities Act],” he said, and indicated that he does not favor such a move.
Grand County Council member Lynn Jackson also attended the town hall. He asked about the public needing assurance that protected public lands will remain accessible to the public. Johnson agreed and said that continued access is important.
Times-Independent reporter Jeff Richards contributed to this story.