Hodge was born and raised in Tempe and has been involved in public service and local politics since he was a teenager.
On Monday, Jevin Hodge recalled a question that the late civil rights leader and former City of Phoenix councilmember Calvin Goode would often ask him: “What more could we be doing?”
It’s a question Hodge says is ingrained in his soul.
“I think about that every day. What more could I be doing to serve our communities?”
They were words Hodge had in mind Monday when he became the first person to announce a bid for Arizona’s 1st Congressional District seat, which covers Cave Creek, Fountain Hills, and parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
In a campaign video posted to Twitter, the 27-year-old Democrat and Tempe native said he was running because Arizonans could no longer wait for leaders in Washington to recognize “the urgent problems we face.”
“We need leadership in the United States Congress that reflects the communities of this country,” Hodge told The Copper Courier. “We need leadership that understands what it’s like to be a working American, that understands what it’s like to not have healthcare, that understands what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet or to come from a sub-par education system and figure things out.”
Hodge will vie for the seat currently occupied by Republican Rep. David Schweikert, who represented Arizona’s 6th Congressional District since 2011. Schweikert won re-election in 2020 by 4.4% of the vote, but voter demographics could drastically change the political makeup of the district depending on which direction the area’s boundaries move.
Hodge is president of the board of directors for a local nonprofit dedicated to child development and was the first Black millennial vice chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party. He narrowly lost a bid for a seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in November.
If elected, he would be the state’s first Black congressman and the second youngest Black congressman in the country, after Harold Ford Jr., who took office in 1997 at 26 years old.
Hodge acknowledged the historic implications a win could have for the state, referencing a motto he lives by: “I may be the first, but I damn sure won’t be the last.”
Public service is also a family affair for Hodge.
His mother, Berdetta Hodge, became the first Black woman elected to the Tempe Union High School District governing board in 2016. Berdetta is currently serving her second term on the school board and is running for a seat on the Tempe City Council in 2022.
“She showed us what leadership looks like,” Hodge said in his campaign video. “So what did I do? I got to work.”
‘Creating Space’ for Everyone
Born in Tempe and raised by a single mother, Hodge says he benefited firsthand from government assistance designed to help “those who need it the most.”
Hodge’s family relied on food stamps and public housing, but he also found meaning in public service early on in life.
When Democratic Sen. Harry Mitchell was running for Congress in 2006, Hodge was in middle school, volunteering on the campaign trail and knocking on doors, excited to “be a part of something much larger than me,” he said.
He also served on the Tempe Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council, becoming the council’s chair when he was a sophomore in high school. Hodge said he took the board from a ceremonial position to a group of young community leaders who would make policy recommendations to the city.
“In the moment, I just saw it as an opportunity to get the job done,” Hodge said. “It’s always just been something that’s a part of me.”
Hodge cited the influence of Black community leaders like his mother and current Tempe Mayor Corey Woods, who is the first Black mayor in the city’s history. In an interview with Cronkite News in 2017, Woods remembered Hodge as a young man “trying to make a difference, trying to get involved.”
Hodge said that, while his mother taught him resilience and how to be a leader, Woods taught him how to navigate institutionalized spaces where “you’re often going to be the first and the only.”
“These people poured into me,” he said. “There’s no words that can express how grateful I am.”
Hodge also paid tribute to the legacy of Goode, who died in December. Goode, often called the “conscience” of the Phoenix City Council, was the second Black person elected to serve on the council and its longest-serving member.
Today, Hodge serves as the president of the board of the directors for the Booker T. Washington Child Development Center, which was founded by Goode in 1967 and provides services to roughly 300 families in the Eastlake Park neighborhood and south Phoenix.
The organization is one of Arizona’s oldest Head Starts, federally funded programs that provide education, health, nutrition, and family services to children from low-income families.
“I believe that education is the foundation for it all,” Hodge said. “If we want to make sure that we have a strong future for generations to come, it starts with early childhood education and making sure we’re investing in our kids.”
Answering the Call
Chief among his campaign priorities is ensuring that all Arizonans have access to healthcare, something Hodge has championed for years.
As a senior in high school, Hodge sustained a football injury that required him to have emergency surgery during a period where his mother was transitioning between jobs. Without healthcare, Hodge said he was held in a back room in the hospital for hours, unable to be taken to the operating room because of the cost.
Hodge was eventually able to get the surgery he needed after a doctor fought for his care.
“Not only was that a hard moment for me and my family, but the dignity of the process…is just so hard,” Hodge said. “We need to do everything we possibly can to fight for comprehensive healthcare reform to ensure that all Americans have access to coverage, period.”
Hodge’s other campaign priorities include ensuring that the voting rights of all Americans are protected, tackling jobs and income inequality, investing in infrastructure, equal access to education, and addressing climate change.
Hodge narrowly lost a seat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors last November by just 403 votes—less than 0.1% of the total votes cast. “I know it sounds cliche, but if there’s anything my race taught me…it’s that every vote matters,” Hodge said.
But Arizona demographics are changing, and Hodge said that as long as every Arizonan is enfranchised to be able to participate in elections, elected officials will begin to reflect the state’s diverse demographics and values.
“When I tell you Arizona is purple, I’m on the ground,” he said. “I know it.”
Looking ahead to next year’s election, Hodge reflected on these changing demographics, but also on the impacts of the last year.
He called attention to the Arizonans lost during a pandemic that could have been staved off, homelessness, lack of resources for some to access an equitable education and a racial reckoning sparked by the death of George Floyd.
“All of these different things are happening concurrently all at one time,” he said. “What more could I be doing? I hope that this is the best way that I can answer their call.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect changes to the district that occurred as a result of congressional redistricting.