Johnson warns District 100 seat could remain empty if Hodge wins, then is convicted on federal charge
The Texas House of Representatives is closely divided — 77-73 — between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats need to pick up three seats to win the majority, and the balance of power could be determined in North Texas.
Two Democratic Dallas-area races for the Texas House are contested in the March 2 primary. One involves incumbent Terri Hodge. The winner of the other will run against Republican incumbent Linda Harper-Brown of Irving, who won in 2008 by just 19 votes. Democrats have targeted that as a seat they can pick up.
In State Representative District 100, Eric Johnson is seeking to unseat Hodge, who has been in office since 1997. A week after the primary, Hodge goes on trial in the next phase of the Dallas City Hall corruption scandal. Former council member Don Hill was convicted last fall.
The federal charge alleges Hodge voted for affordable-housing developments in exchange for a free apartment and new carpeting.
The Dallas Morning News endorsed Johnson. Stonewall Democrats endorsed Hodge. Johnson had asked for the LGBT group’s endorsement, but was unable to attend the interview.
Hodge has voted with the LGBT community consistently since coming into office. Her votes match the recommendations of Equality Texas on all issues such as the 2001 Hate Crime Bill and against the 2003 Defense of Marriage bill.
But Johnson’s campaign manager, Juan Ayala, said the LGBT community could count on Johnson’s solid support. "Eric is committed to full equality under the law for all Texans including the LGBT community," he said.
Johnson is making education the central focus of his campaign.
Johnson was raised in the West Dallas housing projects. Through a program at the West Dallas Boys and Girls Clubs, he won tuition and transportation to the Greenhill School in North Dallas. From there he earned a full scholarship to Harvard, a master’s degree from Princeton and his law degree from University of Pennsylvania.
Johnson’s wife, Nakita, serves on the board of Resource Center Dallas.
Because of a work emergency on the day Stonewall Democrats was scheduled to interview him, Johnson was unable to attend and the endorsement went to Hodge.
Stonewall Democrats President Erin Moore said, "Terri is a longtime friend to the LGBT community. We have to go by her record."
The Johnson campaign claims that electing Hodge could result in the district lacking any representation for a portion of the next legislative session.
Hodge’s federal bribery trial begins six days after the primary. If she wins in March but is then convicted and her appeals have ended by Aug. 20, she could be removed from the ticket. The precinct chairs would name a replacement, presumably Johnson.
Should appeals continue beyond that date, her name could not be removed from the ballot. If she is not seated, the governor would have to call a special election.
Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, would presumably be in no rush to fill the seat in this heavily Democratic district and would schedule the election at the latest possible date, leaving the area for at least part of the next legislative session without representation.
The winner of the primary will face no opposition in November.
In the District 105 race, Loretta Haldenwang faces Kim Limberg.
Haldenwang, 25, is external affairs director for the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Limberg, 46, worked for the Texas Department of Transportation for 21 years. Both the Dallas Morning News and Stonewall Democrats have endorsed Haldenwang. However, Limberg said that questionnaires were due back at the Morning News on Jan. 22 but the newspaper came out with its endorsement on Jan. 19.
Moore said, "We were impressed with both" of the candidates. She said that viability of a campaign is important in her group’s endorsements and that Haldenwang seemed to have more of a campaign going.
Limberg’s campaign slogan is "Go green with Limberg." She said that she would like to see Texas take the lead in environmental issues.
"I don’t always want to see California ahead in the environment," she said. Texas is doing well with wind power, but she said, "I’d like to see more solar" with incentives for homes to go off the grid, noting that this would create new jobs.
She said she is committed to the issues important to the LGBT community.
Kirk McPike, the Haldenwang campaign manager, said they were excited to get the Stonewall endorsement because it is a group that works for the candidates they believe in.
On issues of interest to the LGBT community, McPike said Haldenwang would work with other members to pass an anti-bullying bill and "believes in a workplace where people are judged by their skills and performance and not by any other measure."
Stonewall endorsed two other legislative candidates, incumbent Carol Kent for District 102 and Peter Schulte in District 108.
Schulte will challenge Republican incumbent Dan Branch in November. He was the attorney in the Dallas gay divorce case in which Family District Judge Tena Callahan ruled that she did have jurisdiction and that the amendment banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
Schulte said his three issues are civil rights, education and jobs. "I do want to take a look at the process the Legislature went through for the 2005 marriage amendment because I think the wording is flawed," Schulte said. "Same-sex couple adoption? No reason that shouldn’t happen. Safe schools are important to me, too. And domestic partner benefits for state employees? They’re paying their portion. Why should government care who their dependents are?"
Kent represents a district in North Dallas and Southwest Garland. In the fall she faces Republican Stephani Carter, running as a fiscal conservative. State Representatives Raphael Anchia, Yvonne Davis and Roberto Alonzo represent portions of Dallas with considerable LGBT populations as well. They have no opponents in the primary or fall elections.
To vote in the March 2 primary, voters must be registered by Feb. 1. Early voting begins Feb. 16.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 29, 2010.