Two short years ago, Emily Johnson sat in her senior civics class at Poway High School and listened as current Poway Mayor Steve Vaus asked the class about what they wanted to see changed in their city. Johnson, now 20, replied, “I would like to see more support in place for marginalized groups such as the homeless, LGBT, a women’s shelter even, and he (Vaus) told me it wasn’t the city’s job, and that if I wanted to see that changed I should run for office...and that frustrated me.”
Just 3 short months after graduating San Diego Miramar College with an associate’s degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences, Johnson was on the campaign trail and challenging the very man who frustrated her.
Shortly after filing her paperwork to run for the mayor’s office in August, Vaus approached Johnson at a local farmers market and told her that he recalled being the one who encouraged her to run. “I don’t think he expected that I would run, but here we are,” said Johnson. “This is just my interpretation of it, but it is very tense between me and the incumbent.”
Johnson has started a grassroots campaign. She admits her parents weren’t quite sure if she was going to follow through with it, but she has and the reception has been quite positive. “I have received really positive support from the people of Poway because a lot of them are dissatisfied with our city council and they enjoy seeing someone who is new to the game. But I do struggle with this feeling that the other 3 candidates know something I don’t.”
Regardless, Johnson started running her campaign like any other twenty year old would, through social media and by the end of September she started receiving donations. “Thankfully through those donations I was finally able to buy some yard signs and promotional cards.” Now she even has a few endorsements.
The 20 year-old has run the campaign almost exclusively by herself. She goes door to door talking with Poway residents and displays yard signs with her friends. And the community IS taking her seriously. Johnson has been invited to take part in two candidate forums to debate the local issues. Her platform was even featured in the local paper. “I don’t really expect to win, but I’ll be excited to run again later in life and I want to bring attention to the fact that things have to change and that young people have to get involved.”
Reaction among her peers has been quite positive says Johnson, “They are excited for me. I think it is mostly because people in my age range don’t really feel like they have much of a voice in politics, so it is exciting to see someone actually doing it.”
Johnson says she will postpone her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in order to serve should she win office. If she loses, she will enroll in the spring as a transfer student at San Diego State University.
If she does win, Johnson says she is ready serve. She has taken the oath to serve and is ready for any backlash that may come with it. “There are many reasons why people might not like me, I lean left of center, or my age, or that I have tattoos and piercings...all these reasons kind of stack me against conservatives, but it is what it is.”
Election day is Nov. 6 and Johnson will get a platform to share her direction for the City of Poway when she appears on KUSI’s Good Morning San Diego Saturday, Oct. 27 during the 8am hour.