Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Reporter James L. Rosica covers state government from the Tribune's Tallahassee bureau. Email
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Democrat Wes Johnson to file against Norman
Posted Apr 23, 2012 by William March
Updated Apr 23, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Wes Johnson, a retired nuclear and biomechanical engineer, has announced he’ll run for the state Senate District 17 seat held by Republican Jim Norman.
Johnson, a Democrat with little political experience, could face either Norman or former state Rep. Rob Wallace, who apparently will compete in a Republican primary in the district.
Originally from New Jersey, Johnson trained as a nuclear submarine technician in the Navy and became a nuclear engineer after attending the University of Florida. He later got a Ph.D. in biomechanical engineering from UF.
He worked at several nuclear plants including the Crystal River and Turkey Point plants in Florida, and worked briefly in the effort to prevent a nuclear disaster after the accident at the Three Mile Island plant in 1979. He also served as a city council member in the small town of Clementon, N.J.
He has been back in Florida continually since 1994, and in Tampa, as a professor at the University of South Florida and as an independent biomechanical consultant, since 2003. He’s married with six grown daughters
“My major issue is education, and I think the state’s going exactly the wrong way,” said Johnson. “We need to fund education instead of giving money away to private institutions.”
He said his own life, starting out with parents who never graduated from high school, was shaped by opportunities provided by education.
Johnson said a number of moderate Republicans convinced him to run, and that he has a finance committee he believes can raise enough money to make his campaign competitive.
Hillsborough County Democratic Party Chairman Chris Mitchell called Johnson “exactly the kind of candidate voters have been hoping for ... a successful businessman, scientist, husband, and father who we can be proud to represent us in Tallahassee.”