Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In Case You Missed It: Dallas Morning News Endorses Stephen Broden for Congress

dallas morning news

Editorial: We recommend Broden in U.S. House District 30

This newspaper has been among Eddie Bernice Johnson's long-standing supporters, recommending the Democratfor re-election time and again in her nearly two decades in Congress. Her work on behalf of North Texas has been solid, her attentiveness to water and transportation issues real. So it is with a measure of sadness that we find we cannot recommend her for re-election in District 30.

We have spent considerable resources and energy focusing on ways to "bridge the gap" between northern and southern Dallas in recent years and, as a result, we cannot look past the fact that Johnson allowed at least 23 scholarships that could have helped constituents' children to be funneled to her own family and associates. Such self dealing is shameful, particularly in a district so full of need. So is her refusal to accept responsibility in any meaningful way. She repaid the $31,000, but she continues to deny that rules were broken, deflect blame to others in her office and cast aspersions on the reporter who discovered this wrongdoing.

The constituents of this southern Dallas district deserve better. We recommend the Republican challenger, Stephen Broden.
We don't make this recommendation lightly. The public knows little about Broden, 58, but we are heartened by the fact that he has been involved at the street level, reclaiming parts of the district in southern Dallas. He pastors a small mission church near Fair Park, whose goal is to transform the lives of pimps, prostitutes and addicts. Having seen the district's needs from the ground up, he believes much more could be done to create jobs and stability. He emphasizes - and we agree - that it's past time for southern Dallas residents to get good-paying jobs near them instead of having to drive to Frisco.

He has pledged not to put his interests or those of his family ahead of the interests of the constituents.

Broden's more extreme ideas, such as phasing out Social Security, have no chance in Washington. And he faces a steep climb in persuading this Democratic district to give him a chance.

But if ever there was a moment for change in this district, which encompasses many of southern Dallas' struggles, this is it. Johnson, 74, refuses to acknowledge how she has insulted her constituents by awarding at least 23 scholarships over several years from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to relatives and the children of a staffer instead of to students in southern Dallas.

When we questioned her about the controversy in our Editorial Board meeting with her and Broden last week, Johnson insisted she'd broken no rules and continued to blame others. Perhaps most revealing was her comment when we asked whether she thought the root wrong was her conduct or the reporting of it: "I haven't made a judgment," she said.

At another point, she seemed to suggest somebody had forged her signature on a document. We asked who. She said she didn't know. We asked whether she had asked who that person was. She said she hadn't.
This is "taking responsibility"?

Let's be clear. Her relatives weren't eligible for the scholarships because of the program's anti-nepotism rules. Her relatives didn't live in the district, which also disqualified them under the rules. (Neither did the children of a staff member who also benefited from Johnson's self dealing.) And even if her relatives were eligible, why would any legislator steer money to their family members over their constituents?

This smacks of part of the problem in southern Dallas: leaders who treat their districts as if they were their fiefdoms.

Libertarian J.B. Oswalt, an 86-year-old retiree, also is seeking this seat. But it is Broden, who is familiar with the district, recognizes the need for budget reform in Congress and seems to offer energy and a measure of good sense, who we recommend.

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