Former state legislator Jim Johnson who helped build the Republican Party in Cabarrus and Iredell counties died on Sunday. The 73-year-old is thought to have died from a heart attack. Johnson began his political career as a Republican and switched his party affiliation a few times before joining and remaining with the Democratic party in 1987. He was first elected to the State House in 1963 as a Republican, served three terms and in 1983 was elected to the state Senate again as a Republican and served three terms there-finishing as a Democrat. Chris McCartan, head of the Cabarrus County Republican Party, says people respected Johnson's political and legal opinions. "Republicans, Democrats they always knew that they could to Jim about whatever was on their mind and they'd get some sound advice," McCartan said. Johnson was running as a Democrat in this election against incumbent Republican state Senator Fletcher Hartsell. Democratic leaders in Cabarrus and Iredell counties must choose a replacement candidate.