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Widow of Kentucky lawmaker who shot himself says she’ll run for his seat

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The widow of Kentucky state Rep. Dan Johnson, who committed suicide Wednesday night, said she will seek to replace him in the Legislature.

“Dan is gone but the story of his life is far from over,” Rebecca Johnson said in a statement released by David Adams, a political operative and family friend. “These high-tech lynchings and half truths can’t be allowed to win the day. I’ve been fighting behind my husband for 30 years and his fight will go on.”

Dan Johnson, a Mount Washington Republican, was pronounced dead Wednesday night after being found with a single bullet wound to the head on Greenwell Ford Road in Mount Washington, said Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings. An autopsy confirmed that Johnson shot himself, Billings said.

On Monday, the Republican Party of Kentucky and leaders of the House Republican Caucus called for Johnson to resign after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published a lengthy article that said Johnson allegedly forcibly kissed, groped and used his finger to penetrate a 17-year-old girl, despite her asking him to stop, on New Year’s Eve 2012.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting also reported that Johnson had been indicted for an attempted arson in 1985 and called into question several aspects of his life story, including his claim that he set up a morgue in New York City in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

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Johnson denied the allegations in a news conference Tuesday at the Heart of Fire Church in Louisville, where he was pastor.

Rebecca Johnson also works at Heart of Fire Church and strongly defended Johnson after his news conference Tuesday, calling the accusations “crazy.”

“We’re fighters,” Rebecca Johnson said Tuesday. “They may not be fighters. We are fighters. We live, we are alive. We deal with real issues so we don’t know any other way to live but to fight.”

In a Facebook message that was posted before his death but has since been deleted, Dan Johnson said the accusations are false and that “GOD and only GOD knows the truth, nothing is the way they make it out to be.”

Johnson went on to say PTSD is a sickness “that will take my life,” asked for everyone to “Forgive and Love everyone especially yourself” and “blame no person, Satan is the accuser so blame the Devil himself.”

Mike Cook, a chief deputy with the Bullitt County sheriff’s office, said the Facebook post led Rebecca Johnson to call police Wednesday night.

“The fact that they couldn’t get ahold of him, that was the concern,” Cook said.

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Police “pinged” Johnson’s cellphone in an attempt to locate him, but they found him based on a 911 call that said a man shot himself near the bridge, Cook said.

Johnson had stopped his car at the end of a bridge in a secluded area and walked to the front of his vehicle, police said. A 40 caliber pistol was found near his body.

On Thursday morning, Jennifer Baird Faith, a Republican from Shepherdsville, filed to run for Johnson’s 49th District seat.

Faith, who is a middle school history teacher, said she filed on Thursday because she had already set up a substitute teacher for the day. Faith said she announced her intention to challenge Johnson in the Republican primary on Facebook earlier this week.

“That was very tragic and unfortunate,” Faith said of Johnson’s death. “I do not plan on campaigning or advertising in the next couple of days.”

A special election will be called by Gov. Matt Bevin or House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, a Republican, to replace Johnson. The filing deadline for the 2018 general election is Jan. 30.

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© 2017 Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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