U.S. Sen.-elect Ted Budd has named former N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson to serve as Budd’s state director.
Johnson will manage “state outreach and operations” for Budd, according to a news release. Budd is moving from the U.S. House to the Senate after winning the November election to succeed retiring Sen. Richard Burr.
Budd and Johnson are both Republicans.
“Mark Johnson has first-hand experience navigating the complexities of federal, state, and local government agencies to solve problems,” Budd said in the release. “During my time in Congress, providing North Carolinians with outstanding constituent services has been a top priority, and that is task number one for my Senate team. Additionally, Mark will be a key partner as we seek to implement policies and initiatives to support economic development in communities across North Carolina.”
The news release describes Johnson’s “upset victory” in 2016, when he defeated incumbent Democrat June Atkinson to win North Carolina’s top elected education post. Johnson did not seek a second term. He ran instead for lieutenant governor in 2020, losing in the Republican primary.
Johnson had taught at West Charlotte High School and served later on the Winston-Salem/Forsyth school board before winning statewide office. After teaching, he worked as corporate counsel and later vice president of a Winston-Salem tech company.
“Most recently, Johnson has been consulting for business incubators and start-up firms,” according to Budd’s release.
In 2020, Johnson’s final year as state superintendent, his disagreements with the appointed State Board of Education attracted frequent publicity. A May 7, 2020, Carolina Journal article described Johnson’s “tense history” with the board.
Part of the tension resulted from legislation approved shortly after Johnson’s 2016 election. The new law was designed to give the superintendent more authority over state education staffing and budget issues. The state board challenged the changes in court, but a 6-0 state Supreme Court ruling upheld the law.
Johnson’s final year in office also coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.