Lon Johnson

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Lon Johnson
Lon Johnson
Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party
In office
February 23, 2013 – July 11, 2015
Preceded byMark Brewer
Succeeded byBrandon Dillon
Personal details
Lonnie Barton Johnson

Rockwood, Michigan
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Julianna Smoot
ResidenceDetroit, Michigan

Lonnie Barton "Lon" Johnson is an American politician. He is the former chairperson of the Michigan Democratic Party,[3][4] having served in that position from 2013 through 2015.[1][5] He was an unsuccessful candidate in the 2012 election for the 103rd district in the Michigan House of Representatives.[6] He was the Democratic nominee for Michigan's 1st congressional district in the 2016 election, losing to Republican Jack Bergman in the general election by well over 50,000 votes.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Johnson was born in Rockwood, Michigan. His father is a retired machinist and his grandfather was a steelworker. He graduated from Arizona State University. He is a son of Vivian L. Pluff of Onsted, Michigan, and Gary S. Johnson of Richland, Pennsylvania.[8] Lon has an identical twin brother, Lance Johnson.

On October 22, 2011, Johnson married Julianna Smoot,[8] a fundraiser for Democrats. She was a Deputy Manager of Barack Obama's 2012 presidential reelection campaign,[9] having previously served as White House Social Secretary, Deputy Assistant to the President,[10] and Chief of Staff to United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk. His wife's employment in the Obama reelection effort was a campaign issue.[11]


Johnson has worked for the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee,[12] and Congressman John Dingell's 2002 campaign.[1][12] Johnson also worked for a non-profit called the National Democratic Institute. During his time there he traveled to Iraq to help with the installation of a political system based on democratic governance.[13] He was formerly vice president of a private equity firm in Tennessee, TVV Capital,[14] a private fund in Nashville that invests in small and midsize manufacturers and other companies, chiefly in the Southeast.[8]

Political campaigns[edit]

2012 Michigan House of Representatives campaign[edit]

Johnson made an unsuccessful bid in the 2012 elections to unseat incumbent Republican Representative Bruce Rendon in the 103rd district of the Michigan House of Representatives.[2][6]

During the election, his opponent made the employment of his wife, Julianna Smoot, in the Obama reelection effort a campaign issue.[11]

His endorsements included the Mackinac Sierra Club Chapter, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, and PrideSource.[15]

Johnson's campaign raised a total of $347,637 during the 2012 election cycle.[16]

2013 Michigan Democratic Party Chairperson election[edit]

On February 5, 2013, Johnson announced his intentions to become Michigan Democratic Party Chairperson.[14][17] The two-year position was voted on during the Michigan Democratic Party Convention at Cobo Hall in Detroit on February 23, 2013.[18] Johnson's main opponent was Mark Brewer. Brewer was the longest-serving Democratic Party chairperson in the US, having first been elected to the position in 1995.[5][14][19]

All seven Democrats in Michigan’s congressional delegation signed a letter sent to party members on February 5, 2013 which announced their collective endorsement of Johnson for the chair of the state party.[14][17][18] He also received the support of the United Auto Workers,[5][18] while his opponent, Mark Brewer, had the support of the Michigan Education Association.[5][20]

Johnson said he intended to hire an executive director to oversee day-to-day operations of the state headquarters while he focused on campaign and outreach efforts.[20]

On the day of the election, February 23, 2013, Mark Brewer withdrew from the race. Brewer announced his decision to thousands of delegates to withdraw rather than continue a floor election. Johnson was elected chairperson shortly after Brewer's announcement.[3][4]

2016 U.S. House campaign[edit]

On June 25, 2015, Johnson announced his intentions to step down as Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party and run for Michigan's 1st congressional district.[7] His tenure as Chair officially ended on July 11, 2015, when a new Chair was selected by the state party's executive committee.[7] Republican incumbent Dan Benishek is retiring.[21]

Johnson won the Democratic primary in August 2016. He faced Republican nominee Jack Bergman in the November 2016 general election.[22] Bergman won 55% of the vote to Johnson's 40%.[23][24]

Electoral history[edit]

Michigan's 103rd state House of Representatives District General Election, 2012[25]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Bruce Rendon (I) 23,308 52.8
Democratic Lon Johnson 20,832 47.2
Republican hold


  1. ^ a b c Clark, Zoe; Pluta, Rick (February 3, 2013). "Electoral College reform, 2014 Gov race, and Democratic infighting (Oh my!)". Michigan Radio. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Oosting, Jonathan (February 1, 2013). "Michigan Democratic leader Mark Brewer denies convict's accusation of concocting fake Tea Party scheme; Republican leader calls for resignation". MLive. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Gautz, Chris (February 23, 2013). "Longtime chair Mark Brewer is out; state Dems elect Lon Johnson". Crain's Detroit Business. Associated Press. Retrieved February 23, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Gray, Kathleen (February 23, 2013). "Mark Brewer exits race for party chair after tense day at Michigan Democratic convention". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved February 23, 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d Eggert, David (February 5, 2013). "Key Democrats back challenger to party chairman". WWJ-TV. Associated Press. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Michigan House of Representatives results". Detroit News. Associated Press. December 31, 2012. Archived from the original on August 6, 2014. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Todd Spangler and Kathleen Gray (June 25, 2015). "Dem party chair Lon Johnson to challenge U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved June 25, 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "Julianna Smoot and Lon Johnson". New York Times. October 23, 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  9. ^ "Factbox: Key players in Obama's re-election campaign". Reuters. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  10. ^ "Obama taps Washington insider as social secretary". Blnz.com. Archived from the original on February 20, 2012. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
  11. ^ a b Clark, Zoe; Rick Pluta (August 31, 2012). "It's Just Politics". Michigan Radio. Retrieved January 2, 2013. Representative Rendon sent out a fundraising letter that calls attention to the fact that Johnson’s wife … "mis one of the people running President Obama’s reelection campaign, and a superstar of Democratic politics. ...Johnson released a letter that calls on his Republican opponent to lay off his wife.
  12. ^ a b "About Lon". Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  13. ^ Phillips, Chad (April 23, 2012). "103rd Democratic Candidate Lon Johnson is Northern Michigan's Prince Fielder". Michigan Populist Blog. Retrieved February 6, 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d Gautz, Chris (February 5, 2013). "Key Democrats back challenger to state party Chairman Mark Brewer". Crain's Detroit Business. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  15. ^ "Lon Johnson's Special Interest Group Ratings". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  16. ^ "Johnson, Lon". Follow The Money. National Institute on Money in State Politics. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  17. ^ a b Gray, Kathleen (February 5, 2013). "Congressional Democrats throw support behind Johnson for state party chair". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  18. ^ a b c Oosting, Jonathan (February 5, 2013). "Michigan Congressional Democrats back Lon Johnson to replace Mark Brewer as party leader". MLive. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  19. ^ "Lessenberry: 'Mark Brewer Is In Trouble' In Bid To Stay State Democratic Chairman". Deadline Detroit. January 28, 2013. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  20. ^ a b Livengood, Chad; Shepardson, David (February 5, 2013). "Mich. leaders seek ouster of 18-year Democrat chairman Mark Brewer". Detroit News. Archived from the original on April 8, 2013. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  21. ^ Cahn, Emily (September 15, 2015). "Dan Benishek to Retire in 2016 (Updated)". Roll Call. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  22. ^ Gibbons, Lauren (August 2, 2016). "Lon Johnson wins 1st Congressional District Democratic primary". MLive. Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  23. ^ "Michigan U.S. House 1st District Results: Jack Bergman Wins". The New York Times. November 15, 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  24. ^ Bennett, John (November 9, 2016). "New Member: GOP's Jack Bergman Claims Michigan's 1st District". Roll Call. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  25. ^ "2012 Michigan Election Results 103rd District Representative in State Legislature 2 Year Term (1) Position". Michigan Secretary of State. February 22, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016.

External links[edit]