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Rebecca Johnson Quits Kentucky House Race To Replace Late Husband

rebecca johnson
Photo by J. Tyler Franklin

The widow of a state lawmaker who killed himself late last year will not run in this year’s primary or general elections to fill her husband's vacant seat.

Rebecca Johnson announced her candidacy the day after the death of her husband Rep. Dan Johnson, a pastor from Bullitt County, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in December.

Days before, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting began publishing a five-part series of Johnson detailing years of deceptive behavior, alleged arson and the alleged sexual assault of a minor.

Rebecca Johnson, a Republican, lost a special election in February to replace her late husband. The contest was won by Democratic Rep. Linda Belcher, a former elementary school principal who was ousted by Dan Johnson in 2016.

According to a KyCIR report published last month, Rebecca Johnson has struggled with financial and legal issues, including bankruptcy, bounced checks, unpaid bills and income tax troubles — some of which were tied to the Heart of Fire Church, which the Johnsons managed.

The church was also the site of illegal alcohol sales.

Rebecca Johnson released a statement on Monday to several news outlets. She said she was turning her attention to her ministry and her family:
After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided at this time, to not seek the Republican Party nomination for the 49th House district. I feel my time can be best served with my family and my ministry. It was my pleasure to represent the Bullitt County Republican Party in the special election that was held in the 49th District. I am grateful for all the love and support from the Republican Party leadership, my volunteers and for those who voted for me. I will continue to carry on the work of my husband, and I will continue to work with the great people of Bullitt County meet the many challenges we face as a community. Thanks and God bless.
According to Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office, Johnson’s withdrawal was filed Monday morning. Her name will still be listed on the Republican primary election ballot in May but any votes cast for her will not be counted.

Republican Thomas Huff of Shepherdsville will now run unopposed in the Republican primary. He will face Belcher in the November General Election.

This post has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.