Who is new House Speaker Mike Johnson?

Washington DC – Mike Who? A little-known conservative is now two steps away from the US presidency after being elected the new Speaker of the House.

Mike Johnson was elected Speaker of the House on Wednesday.
Mike Johnson was elected Speaker of the House on Wednesday.  © Collage: Win McNamee / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

A virtual unknown beyond the shaded verandas and air-conditioned municipal halls of the Deep South, Louisiana congressman Mike Johnson is emblematic of the broader ideological and partisan divides that shape US politics.

The 51-year-old attorney's journey to Washington was paved with a deep commitment to traditional values that delights fellow conservatives but has invited accusations that he is out of step with modern America and lacks a commitment to democracy.

The staunch Donald Trump loyalist, who on Wednesday was elected speaker of the US House of Representatives, was the chief architect in Congress of legal efforts to overturn the Republican leader's 2020 election defeat to President Joe Biden.

Melania reportedly has some strong thoughts on Trump's hush money trial
Melania Trump Melania reportedly has some strong thoughts on Trump's hush money trial

An unapologetic opponent of reproductive rights and an outspoken advocate for tough immigration controls, Johnson climbed quickly through the ranks of Republican politics, where his conservative voting record propelled him to a junior leadership position.

"We're going to serve the people of this country. We're going to restore their faith in Congress, this institution of government. America is the last, best hope of man on the Earth," he told reporters at a news conference after his nomination, flanked by jubilant colleagues.

"Abraham Lincoln said it, Ronald Reagan used to remind us all the time, and we're here to remind you of that, again."

"This House Republican majority is united," Johnson had told reporters as colleagues cheered and applauded following his nomination.

A virtual unknown, Johnson's lack of star power appears to have helped the 51-year-old attorney and religious rights campaigner, who lacked the enemies from his own side that prompted the downfall of every other candidate.

Far from his party's first choice, he was able to capitalize on the desperation of lawmakers to move on from the impasse, although winning the gavel was still a heavy lift in the deeply-fractured House Republican Conference.

"I haven't heard one negative comment about him. Everybody likes him, he's respected by all... somebody that's going to be really spectacular and maybe for many years to come," Trump said ahead of the vote.

All about House Speaker Rep Mike Johnson

Rep Mike Johnson is a conservative Republican congressman from Louisiana.
Rep Mike Johnson is a conservative Republican congressman from Louisiana.  © SAUL LOEB / AFP

Born in October 1972 in Shreveport, Louisiana's third city, Johnson grew up in a tight-knit community that instilled in him the values of the American South that shaped his dedication to faith and family.

He earned his undergraduate business degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and later studied and practiced law. His entry into the political arena was seen by friends and family as a natural progression and he was elected in 2015 to the Louisiana State Senate, where he worked on key issues such as education reform and economic development.

In 2016, he threw his hat in the ring for a seat in the US House and ran on a platform of limited government and economic growth, winning in a landslide.

Trump makes up for lost time with first campaign event since hush money trial began
Donald Trump Trump makes up for lost time with first campaign event since hush money trial began

One of the primary sources of Johnson criticism has been his stance on LGBT issues, as he has been a consistent opponent of federal protections for same-sex marriage.

He was one of 147 Republicans who refused to certify 2020 election results that had been upheld by courts and officials across the country, even after the US Capitol was ransacked by Trump supporters with the same aim. And he led more than 100 Republicans in signing on to a legal brief supporting an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to overturn the results in four swing states won by Biden.

A poor-to-middling fundraiser, Johnson's unwavering support for anti-abortion measures makes him popular among Republicans but controversial to donors, who have hardly tripped over themselves to boost his campaign coffers.

Critics also argue that Johnson's alignment with the hard-right Freedom Caucus has contributed to congressional polarization and undermined any claim he might have to promote the bipartisan cooperation essential to a functioning democracy.

But supporters list among his strengths his eloquence and ability to effectively communicate complex policy matters. A skilled debater known for his articulate defense of border security, free-market economic policy, and limited government, Johnson has been a vocal supporter of the military.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Johnson has cultivated an image as a devoted family man and a tireless defender of conservative values, co-chairing the Congressional Prayer Caucus and fighting for religious expression in public schools.

Johnson initially hung back as a succession of fellow Republicans tried and failed to unite the right as the past month has seen Congress in chaos without a House leader and unable to pass legislation.

But he was persuaded to enter the speaker race as he emerged as a rare figure that none of his colleagues opposed.

"Until yesterday, I had never contacted one person about this," he said in a letter to colleagues over the weekend, "and I have never before aspired to the office."

Cover photo: Collage: Win McNamee / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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