Attorney Ann Johnson, 45, who comes from a family of lawyers, has worked for Texas State Representatives Mike Martin and Craig Eiland, United States Congressman Jack Brooks in the House Judiciary Committee, as well as in the Legislative Affairs Office of the White House during the Clinton Administration, and in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. The native Houstonian is now running to represent constituents in west Houston’s District 134, in an effort to flip the Texas statehouse blue.
And this isn’t her first time.
“The district was represented by Democrat Ellen Cohen,” she recalls. “But she lost a close race in 2010 when the Tea Party sweep brought in Republican Sarah Davis.” Not impressed with Davis’ track record for gutting education funding in 2011, Johnson looked around for a candidate to support in the 2012 election.
“There wasn’t a Democrat running,” she said. “So I just said, ‘I’m all in,’ and ran against her.” Johnson had just come out at the time, but the district had a healthy population of LGBTQ residents, at least in the beginning. “We were doing really well,” Johnson said, “until they redrew the district.” The new map was 57 percent Republican, with all of the Montrose precincts deleted. Even so, Johnson was able to win 45 percent of the vote. After the election, she left politics to start up a Human Trafficking Section for the Harris County D.A.’s office in 2013.
After being in private practice for the past three years, the Houston native has decided to throw her hat into the ring again. She faces two Democratic opponents in the March 3 primary—Lanny Bose and Ruby Powers. Johnson has gotten to know her challengers during the early part of the campaign and
says they are all focused on the same fact:
that Sarah Davis is not right for the district.
“As part of the Republican Party, Davis has helped gut state education funding, and she voted to not expand Medicaid in Texas under the Affordable Care Act, leaving $114 million in our tax dollars off the table,” Johnson said. “I think if you educate people and keep them healthy, they can take care of everything else.”
Johnson also believes that the time has passed for sensible gun-control regulation, noting that four of the top-ten mass shootings have occurred in Texas in the last decade. Davis has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and received an “A” rating for her stance on gun rights.
Another thing that sets the two candidates apart is climate change. Johnson said that Texas is unique because it has its own power grid, as well as an abundance of wind and solar power. “If the Texas Legislature would invest in climate infrastructure and studies,” Johnson said, “we could have 80 percent renewable energy in ten years.”
The candidate has been married to noted local artist Sonya Cuellar since 2015. They married as soon as the Supreme Court marriage-equality ruling passed.
“We’ve been together for almost ten years,” Johnson said. “We had our rings, and as soon as we heard the news we texted each other, so I guess I can say we proposed by text. I wish I had a more romantic story, but that was it! But she’s the yin to my yang. I am a stronger person because of her.”
The couple resides in the Rice Military area of District 134 with their three rescue dogs, and they enjoy travel and spending time with Cuellar’s extended family in Rosenberg, where they let their dogs run and play with their nieces and nephews. There isn’t much time for date nights during a campaign, but Johnson does say that they have a rule about leaving their phones at home when they go out to dinner so they can focus on each other.
Turning the Texas statehouse blue in 2020 is important to Democrats for a host of reasons, from LGBTQ rights to a woman’s right to choose to climate change and affordable healthcare.
“This race is vitally important,” Johnson said. “Because of [the upcoming redistricting process], the people you vote for this year will be drawing the maps in 2021. I know firsthand what happened to our district in 2012, and it is of major importance that we take the partisan politics out of redistricting.”
Johnson has been endorsed by former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, former District 134 Representative Ellen Cohen, and the Victory Fund. Her official website is annjohnson.com.
This article appears in the February 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.