Tim Hodge, resident of North Newton and member of the Koerner Heights Mennonite Brethren Church, is running a vigorous campaign for state representative in the 72nd district. Tim is a graduate of Tabor College. He is a partner with Adrian and Pankratz, P.A. and a member of the Newton Board of Education. His wife, Mary Ellen teaches special education at Northridge Elementary School. Their three children attend Newton public schools.
Hodge knows he has an uphill battle running as a Democrat against the long term Republican incumbent, Marc Rhoades. There are twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats in the 72nd district. Both candidates have strong Mennonite connections. Rhoades grew up in the Bethel College Mennonite Church. His great-grandfather, Peter A. Penner, was a pioneer Mennonite missionary in India.
In Hodge’s favor is the ailing economy of Kansas and the unpopularity of the Republican Governor, Sam Brownback. In his speeches and campaign posters, Hodge sharply criticizes Rhoades as “Just Another Brownback Republican.” Most devastating for the Kansas economy have been a 2012 tax cut on businesses, a refusal to accept federal Medicaid Funds, and a major sales tax increase.
In previous campaigns, Rhoades had proudly endorsed Brownback’s agenda. This time the incumbent has attempted to differentiate himself from the governor. But Rhoades has to admit that he was in favor of the budget busting bills that forced the administration to “steal” two billion dollars from the Kansas Department of Transportations, to transfer funds from other departments, and to reduce funding to higher education. Hodge’s campaign brochures promise to “Protect Education, Work to Re-Open Methodist Youthville, and Restore the Child Care Tax Credit.”
The contrast between Hodge and Rhoades could hardly be more stark. Hodge is a moderate Democrat, committed to public education, social welfare programs, and fair taxes. Rhoades is a conservative Republican, supporter of a “trickle down” economic program that benefits business interests and opposes government programs for the poor. The matter of Mennonite identity does not come up in the campaign, but it is clear that Hodge’s position is closer to the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.