— Tuesday’s event was something Clark Johnson first hoped would happen in January 1985, but his 1984 run against Republican Rep. Mark Piepho for a state House seat came up short.
The longtime DLFer from North Mankato waited nearly three decades to try again, winning a special election to fill the seat left vacant by former Rep. Terry Morrow’s resignation, and — one week later — taking the oath of office from House Speaker Paul Thissen.
When he raised his right hand to take the oath, his left was placed on a 90-year-old Bible.
“Just two days ago, I found a Bible my dad was given when he was 9 years old,” said Johnson, who said it was particularly meaningful. “I was pretty close to him.”
His father was there at the Capitol in spirit and his wife, April, was there in person, but the whirlwind nature of the campaign and election didn’t allow the swearing-in to be extended to the next generation. The Johnsons’ adult daughters are both overseas and couldn’t attend.
Johnson didn’t get to experience the energy and pandemonium that comes with the first day of a post-election legislative session — when dozens of new members are surrounded by hundreds of family members and friends, when the oath is taken en masse, and when the ceremonies of opening day take place. But he did get the honor of taking the oath at the speaker’s podium, the giant portrait of Lincoln looming overhead.
A few hours later, Republican Tama Theis of St. Cloud was sworn in — filling another vacant seat after winning a Feb. 12 special election.
Both missed the freshman orientation that gets newbies ready to deal with the sometimes arcane process and rules of legislating, but Johnson said he’s fortunate that Rep. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, is his legislative next-door neighbor.