Untouchable Hodge

Untouchable Hodge: Well, crap. Gray January is upon us. We've said goodbye to pro football in Dallas, and Hollywood's writers are still striking, so a bleak horizon stretches ahead. What's left to entertain us? Oh, you know the answer. Does Buzz really have to say it? Fine, we will: It's politics. God help us.

Let's begin the silly season by noting a curious fact: State Representative Terri Hodge faces no opponents in her Democratic primary, despite being under federal indictment as part of an investigation into alleged corruption involving low-income housing development company Southwest Housing. This is also despite the fact that, in the past, Hodge did not dispute reports she had received subsidized rent from Southwest Housing and that she had provided political support for some of Southwest Housing's apartment developments. (The rent help wasn't a bribe, her lawyer has claimed. She thought she qualified for housing assistance because, as a state legislator, she makes very little money. She supported Southwest Housing because they do good work. There was no quid pro quo.)

Well, sure. Anything's possible, and in the eyes of the law Hodge is innocent until proven guilty. The eyes of politics, however, are usually a little more jaundiced when you're a sitting state legislator getting help paying your rent and utilities from a company targeted by the G-men. No one in Hodge's District 100 thought they could take her on in the primary? Is being a low-paid Texas legislator that bad a job? Shoot, Democratic Sheriff Lupe Valdez has drawn three primary opponents. While nobody has ever accused Valdez of being particularly good at her job, she's never been charged with taking bribes, either. How does Hodge slide by so easily?

"I don't have an answer to that question," Hodge told Buzz. In reality, though, she did: "I think it's because the people in my district know me well and know I work hard...I think the voters in my district know who I am, and maybe the feds have someone they want me to be."

As Jim Schutze reported last spring ("Vox Populi," April 5) Hodge certainly had her constituents behind her when she came out firmly against legislation that would have expanded eminent domain. Or maybe they don't consider getting a little help with the rent and utilities a big deal. Or maybe they just aren't paying attention. Whatever the reason, Hodge's situation is something that anyone handicapping the fed's Southwest Housing case should keep in mind: She didn't get a single primary opponent? Good luck, Mr. Federal Prosecutor, finding 12 Dallas jurors ready to convict.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

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