ByÂ Joshua Miller,Â Roll Call Staff
Rep.Â John Lewis (Ga.) is not mincing any words when it comes to his Democratic primary challenger, former judge Michael Johnson, who already has used some sharp language suggesting Lewisâ€™ role as a civil rights icon means the Congressman is stuck in the past. Their race is starting to sound like a generational battle.
â€œI absolutely believe that this election is not about where we were 45 or 50 years ago in the past, but about where we want to be 45 or 50 years in the future,â€ Johnson told Roll Call in what seemed like a direct jab at Lewis, best known for leading marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., 46 years ago with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
â€œWhat that means is: Who is going to provide the best plan and the best leadership and the best vision for moving us forward into the future? One of the things Iâ€™ve always believed is you canâ€™t drive forward into the future looking back through the rearview mirror,â€ said Johnson, 42, who resigned as a judge at Fulton County Superior Court so he could run for Congress.
In an interview with Roll Call, Lewis, 71, swatted down the idea that his civil rights work only mattered decades ago.
â€œForty-six years ago, I led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for the right to vote and, you know, I gave a little blood there,â€ Lewis said.
â€œFifty years ago, during the Freedom Rides, when I was 21, 22, I was putting my life on the line,â€ he added. â€œIn order to know what a person will do in the future, you have to look at their past.
â€œIf it hadnâ€™t been for what I and others did 45 and 50 years ago, he wouldnâ€™t be able to run,â€ Lewis said of his rival, who also is black.
â€œIf it wasnâ€™t for the bridge in Selma, there wouldnâ€™t be a Barack Obama,â€ Lewis added, noting that he travels around the country talking to groups, white and black, Republican and Democratic, about his experiences in the civil rights movement.
â€œIt was not just a struggle for African-Americans, but for all Americans to help make America a more perfect union,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m not going to run away from that. Iâ€™m going to build on it.â€
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