- Jamie Johnson is the first African-American to represent North Kansas City in the Missouri House of Representatives.
- Johnson ran for office after a Republican candidate with controversial history was the only candidate.
- Johnson has been working across party lines and focusing on legislative areas such as health insurance coverage and community building.
Freshman Missouri state Rep. Jamie Johnson grew up alongside her parents supporting candidates in her native New Orleans. Still, as a single mother and Kansas City transplant, she never expected to run for office.
Not only did she run, but she won, making history as the first African-American to represent North Kansas City in the Missouri House of Representatives.
Compared to Jackson County, MO, with its heavily diverse Kansas City population (23% African American), Platte County has a reputation for lacking diversity.
With a Black population of about 7% (up 5.8% since 2010) and Republicans dominating the county’s elected positions, it’s no wonder Johnson is a Platte County first.
However, those who know Johnson aren’t quite that surprised. Her community and political involvement in the county helped raise her visibility and gain her a team of supporters who not only voted for her, but encouraged her to run.
Entering the Race
Johnson evacuated New Orleans in 2005 on the heels of Hurricane Katrina. She spent the next 17 years raising her children in the Northland.
“For a while, I kind of just raised my kids. I feel like there were so many people who were in the position I was in and didn’t have time to pay attention to politics,” shared Johnson. “I had kids to raise, I had PTA meetings, I had football practice, I had all of these things, so I just trusted my elected officials were doing what they were supposed to do.”
After the 2016 presidential election and Donald Trump’s win, things changed and she got involved in local politics.
Despite encouragement from community members, she never considered running for office.
“I said I’m a Black woman in Platte County. I’m going to pass,” Johnson emphasized.
However, when 2020 redistricting opened up a new Missouri House seat and it was in her district, she began giving a political run serious consideration. As the deadline for filing approached, the only candidate was a Republican who had a public history of supporting controversial statements and actions.
“I didn’t want him to be my state representative and the filing date was coming up and we didn’t have a candidate,” she shared. “So I decided I would run against him so we could at a minimum have a contest. I didn’t want to make it easy for him to just walk into our state legislature.”
As a result, Johnson launched a campaign and her message resonated with Platte County residents. Although her opponent, Tom Hutsler, had already unsuccessfully run for office in Parkville and Johnson was largely unknown, she ran on a platform to better represent Platte County and to show that change was possible. It was a platform that helped her win with a margin of 4%.
“The narrative of Platte County is that it’s a scary place for Black people,” Johnson said. “I would say don’t let those who spin these stories influence you. If you’re in the room, you’re in the room for a purpose and there is no one in that room that can validate you more than that purpose.”
Her Freshman Term in Review
As a freshman in the 2023 legislative session, Johnson wasn’t bashful about working for the change she felt was important. She introduced House Bill 900, creating provisions for health insurance to cover the cost of midwives and doulas.
“With the statistics we’ve been seeing coming out of Missouri for maternal mortality, I felt like we could do more to address that,” Johnson said. “I felt it would be of interest for insurance companies to provide these services because the flip side is paying out a life insurance policy for someone who is no longer with us.”
The bill passed the committee hearing but is currently being restructured.
Making Progress Across Party Lines
While Republicans dominate most of Platte County’s elected positions, Johnson is one of two Democrats from Platte County elected to the Missouri House and is part of the House’s largest Democratic caucus since 2011.
Johnson says she’s been able to push her legislative agenda forward by building relationships on both sides of the aisle, both inside and outside of the chamber.
“It was more just getting to know different legislators, making connections, and building relationships,” Johnson said. “I’ve made friends with people that I met on Day One. Just connecting with those folks and really solidifying bonds of friendship […] and supporting each other.”
Johnson is proud of her bipartisan work for the approval of a capital improvement project. Working with Republican Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer and Riverside, MO, Mayor Kathy Rose, also a Republican, to secure $20 million for a live concert venue in District 12.
Johnson is also working to restore a one-room schoolhouse built in the late 1800s in Platte County. Her goal is to revitalize the grounds and use the space for a museum to commemorate the building’s history as a learning center for Black children.
When asked about the proposed Royals stadium in Clay County, Platte County’s neighbor to the west, Johnson mentioned the positive impact for the Northlands but also the possible negative impact moving the stadium would have on its current surrounding neighborhoods.
“I would love it to be in North Kansas City, but I am thinking of the unintended consequences of what happens to that community [surrounding the existing stadium] when we remove that big huge piece of Kansas City history from it,” she said. “At this point, I’m undecided [but] I would like to see them put more effort into what would replace Kauffman Stadium in that space.”
A Thriving Community for All in 2024
In 2024, Johnson says she’ll focus on building a thriving community through seven legislative areas including veterans support, fair elections, workers’ rights, and protection from domestic abuse.
You can join Rep. Johnson on social media as she launches her 2024 campaign – follow her online at @Jamieformo or @Jamie4mo. Sign up for her newsletter at www.JamieForMO.com.