Now he'll try to make the jump to the federal level by pursuing a congressional seat that turned Republican more than 30 years ago and has stayed that way.
Late on Wednesday, Hodges said he'll seek his party's nomination to run in a special election in the 8th Congressional District, bringing the number seeking the nomination to five.
Republicans and Libertarians nominated candidates last week to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat vacated in January by Jo Ann Emerson. Republicans chose Jason Smith, speaker pro tem of the Missouri House of Representatives, from a field of 10 candidates, while Libertarians nominated Bill Slantz of St. Charles, Mo., who owns a broadcasting consultation company and was the only candidate considered by the party.
Being considered by Democrats for a nomination are state Rep. Linda Black of Bonne Terre, Mo.; Mark Fitchpatrick, a former mayor of Blodgett, Mo.; Todd Mahn, a De Soto, Mo., funeral home director; Jack Rushin, a chiropractor from Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and Hodges, an East Prairie, Mo., Democrat representing the 149th House District.
Hodges has been seated in the state House since 2006, when he won a hard-fought campaign into which both parties dumped loads of cash.
Hodges is known as having conservative values. He is pro-gun and pro-life, and in past bids for his House seat received endorsements from Missouri Right to Life, the state's main pro-life group. He was first elected in the 161st District in 2006. The district recently was redrawn into the 149th, which covers most of Mississippi County, about half of Sikeston, Mo., in Scott County, all of New Madrid County and the northern part of Pemiscot County.
Cindy Jenks, chairwoman of the Democratic committee, on Wednesday said that from now until the time Saturday when the committee will begin balloting, candidates can join the contest.
The meeting begins at 1 p.m. at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Poplar Bluff.
"If someone makes up their mind that they want to declare intent to run before we receive the ballot, then according to the rules, they can declare their candidacy," she said.
On Wednesday, Jenks was working on an agenda for the meeting.
Information about the Democratic nomination process and possible nominees has been available through only a few committee members since Emerson announced her intent to leave Congress to become president and CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
The Missouri Democratic Party has not made any public efforts to pitch candidates to the committee, although Jenks said the committee has been consulting with the state party for guidance on the selection process. Some speculation has indicated Democratic state or federal officeholders are attempting to influence the committee's choice of a candidate, but there appears to be no clear evidence.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, was asked during a conference call Wednesday whether she was helping find a viable Democratic candidate to run in the special election.
"No one has asked me to get involved, and I think the Democrats in that area are certainly in the best position to judge who might be the strongest candidate," McCaskill said. "I think it's important that whoever they nominate know that district very well. So I think they are in the best position to determine who understands Southeast Missouri, and who can do the most to help the folks in Southeast Missouri in Washington. I will leave that to their good judgment and to the candidate they nominate."
Missouri Democratic Party executive director Joe Duffy echoed McCaskill in an email to the Southeast Missourian on Wednesday.
"The folks on the ground in the 8th District know their region and will decide which candidate best reflects their values, and the Missouri Democratic Party stands ready to assist whomever they nominate to compete in the special election," Duffy wrote.
"The Missouri Democratic Party will throw full support behind our candidate once this nomination process is completed," he added.
The district Democratic committee's 68 members are expected to cast 72 votes during the nomination process. Some members of the committee will be allowed to cast more than one vote since they hold a chair or vice-chair position on more than one legislative district or county committee that come together to form the committee.
A possible voting issue members may have to face Saturday deals with the committee's makeup.
A list of committee members shows two counties having male representatives in the chair and vice-chair positions. Missouri revised statute 115.619 states legislative district and county committees must elect a chair and vice chair, "one of whom shall be a woman and one of whom shall be a man."
Hodges, who is a member of the committee, said he has been looking into how it's makeup could affect the validity of some votes, but that the committee remains uncertain.
The state party is working with the committee to ensure it follows proper legal procedure, Duffy said.