Olathe News; June 17, 2006
Hodge will Bank On Experience
At 26 years young, Benjamin Hodge rounds out a wide-open race for an empty state representative position in the 49th District, which covers Olathe’s eastern edge. Hodge knows if he gets elected, he’ll largely be surrounded by representatives with a few more gray hairs, but his age isn’t deterring him from running on the Republican ticket for the Aug. 1 primary. On that day, he will face Olathe community leader and fellow Republican in Bobby Love.
Bond Faulwell will run on the Democrat side for the November election. It’s going to be a busy summer for Hodge, though, as he finishes up his masters of business administration degree at University of Missouri at Kansas City while gearing up for his campaign. But it won’t be the first run at an elected position, which separates Hodge from his opponents. Hodge was elected to the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees last year. He believes that experience will gain him some political capital to take into the upcoming election. His name has popped up from time to time in local politics. He served on a commission appointed by John Toplikar, county commissioner, to assess the local impact of eminent domain. The commission’s findings were closely in tune with Hodge’s beliefs on the issue, which is it should rarely, if at all, be used for economic development. Hodge said it’s an issue that’s particularly important to Olathe, as he believes it’s a more susceptible location for eminent domain abuse as land seizures tend to occur more in lower-income areas. “I think it disproportionately affects people of lower and middle income, so if there was to be a large project in Johnson County and a local government had the desire to use eminent domain for economic development, it would more likely be in Olathe than in Leawood,” Hodge said. The self-described mainstream Republican goes on to say he largely supports public education, just not the Kansas Supreme Court’s role in telling the Legislature how to fund it. That the court has been able to give the Legislature the directive to fund schools is one kernel in Hodge’s larger belief that the judicial branch in the state needs significant changes. By changes, he means that the process to select judges should mirror how U.S. Supreme Court justices are chosen: the governor should choose a nominee, and the Senate should confirm that appointment. Right now, members of the Kansas Bar Association have a significant say in which nominees go before the governor. By placing the process in the hands of the governor and the Legislature, that would help make the judicial branch more accountable to the public as the officials that choose or reject the justices would ostensibly have to answer to the voting public. Hodge also believes illegal immigration is important locally. It’s not immigration he has a problem with; it’s only when it’s done illegally that he said costs local taxpayers, especially in a state like Kansas where they can attend higher education with the benefit of in-state tuition. “We are a nation with laws and we are a nation with borders,” Hodge said. “And we need to enforce our borders.” Hodge will run for a seat that Scott Schwab will leave empty as he seeks to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, a seat that’s now held by Dennis Moore.