Challenger Eric Johnson Takes the High Road Against State Representative Terri Hodge, But Where Will It Lead Him?

Brand control: Self-restraint has never been high on Buzz's list of virtues, as anyone who has ever seen our nicotine-stained fingers and fat gut can attest. Still, we appreciate virtue in others when we (very rarely) see it, so we kind of admire Eric Johnson, the lawyer running in the Democratic primary for the District 100 Texas House seat held by fellow Democrat Terri Hodge.

Hodge, in case you forgot, is under indictment on bribery charges tangentially related to the case that recently brought down former Dallas City Council member Don Hill and his cronies.

Now, you might think that'd be a big fat political gift for a guy like Johnson. Picture the campaign bumper stickers: "Vote for Johnson. He Wasn't Indicted."


Terri Hodge

Eric Johnson

Texas House

But no, he's not doing anything like that.

"We never, ever bring up her criminal charges," says Johnson, who's been busy building a grassroots campaign. He'll give an opinion on the indictment if asked by voters, he says, but would rather focus on issues like alleviating poverty and bringing jobs to the district.

What's been Johnson's reward for keeping to the high road? He's been run over by a slew of party establishment types—U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, County Commissioner John Wiley Price, Sheriff Lupe Valdez among them—lining up to support Hodge.

Even Johnson, who's optimistic about his chances against Hodge, expresses frustration at the way the party leaders are flocking to the indicted incumbent.

"It raises a lot of questions about what establishment politics is all about," he says, which appears to be protecting incumbency and one another's flanks. "It's frustrating to see that sort of group-think."

Still, he insists he will not make the indictment a campaign issue. But, he points out, the GOP might not be so kind down the road. Johnson says that if between now and the general election Hodge is not just indicted, but convicted, the sight of all those big Dems lining up behind a felon might give the GOP an issue with which to tar the Democrats—not necessarily in District 100, which is solidly Democratic, but in other county races. "It could be tricky," he says.

Mari Woodlief, president of Allyn Media, a political consulting firm that works with Republicans, agrees. In the northern part of the county, moderates and independents are the deciding voters, and savvy Republicans could make the establishment's choice of Hodge an issue in races there.

Unless, of course, Republican candidates decide, like Johnson, to take the high road and not raise the issue at all.

Ha, ha, ha...snort...sorry. Sometimes we crack ourselves up. —Patrick Williams


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