In office, Johnson helped Republicans pass the ambitious conservative agenda of Gov. Matt Bevin (R), making Kentucky a right-to-work state and banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But in December 2017, during a wave of #MeToo revelations across state capitols, the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting published a lengthy investigation of Johnson’s conduct at his church, revealing that he had sexually abused a 17-year-old girl. Days after the story was published, Johnson was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head.
A special election followed, with Johnson’s widow, Rebecca, winning the Republican nomination to replace him. “I believe the voters of Bullitt County deserve to have the person that they put in office,” Rebecca Johnson told the Courier Journal. “I’m the other half of that person.”
In the end, Belcher easily defeated Johnson, marking the 37th Democratic victory in a Republican-held state legislative seat since the start of 2017. One week earlier, Democrats won an upset victory in Sarasota, Fla.; one week before that, the party flipped control of a legislative seat in Missouri.