Organic farmer and Democrat Charlie Johnson from Orland wants you to know that he has taken out petitions to run for District 8 Senate against Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson. He needs you to know: after lengthy and serious deliberation, after hoping that someone else might take this cup, he decided just this week to take on the challenge of running against one of the biggest-money Republicans in the state. He thus needs signatures fast: the deadline for Johnson to file his 42 valid signatures is Tuesday, March 27.
I relish the prospect of a Johnson-Olson tilt for numerous reasons. When he makes the ballot, I will have all sorts of fun explaining why Charlie Johnson will represent District 8 much more effectively, intelligently, and honestly than Russell Olson.
But let's start this morning with a comparison of each man's appreciation of public discourse, as represented by their presence on Facebook. Charlie Johnson speaks to us on two main channels on Facebook, his personal page and his Johnson Farms Natural Farming business page. His Wednesday post on spreading organic fertilizer is clearly a signal of his political intentions. (Ba-dum-bum!)
O.K., seriously, Charlie's farm Facebook page offers a enlightening combination of straightforward farmwork updates and discussion of important issues related to his business. He mentions hunger in America, the paperwork involved in organic certification, and his dad's organic farm philosophy, which was that if something wasn't safe to touch with the tip of his tongue, it wasn't safe to put on his land. (I'm a little nervous to ask what that means about that pelletized chicken manure!)
Charlie engages his friends and readers in similar substantive conversations on both his own personal Facebook page and in the comment sections on others'. In just this past week, I've seen Charlie discuss the Governor's education reform package (yes, Russ, expect Charlie to hold you accountable for your truth-bending support against the popular will of HB 1234), farm subsidies, the public assistance given to Hutterite colonies (Charlie lives just north of the Orland colony). He explicitly invites readers to share their thoughts. He welcomes opposing views and addresses them civilly and substantively.
So what does Russ use his Facebook page for? Well, not much. The Senate Majority Leader who claims that he uses his Facebook page to keep his constituents updated on his events at the Capitol has posted one update in the last month, three new family photos. The last post directly related to his work in Pierre was a photo of Rep. Kristi Noem not wearing cowboy boots at a Senate caucus meeting. "Great to have Representative Kristi Noem in caucus today," Russ writes on Feb. 21. Since then, over the last two weeks of session and after legislators left Pierre and had time (and dare I say the obligation?) to sum up what happened, Russ has written nothing for his constituents. So much for updates.
Russ is also absent from the comment sections. Heck, his comment section is absent. As we all know, since he got mad at voters who tried to use his Facebook page to communicate their concerns about legislation, the Senate Majority leader appears to have shut off comments on his Facebook page and scrubbed previous comments from at least one vocal opponent. I click "Like" this morning on his page and still can't leave a comment.
Where private citizen Charlie Johnson uses Facebook to inform and interact with his neighbors, public figure Russell Olson uses Facebook for one-way marketing, and darned thin marketing at that. Where Charlie responds to online criticism with conversation, Russ responds with censorship.
Get those petitions in, Charlie. We need a Senator who's not afraid to talk with the people he represents.