Armed Michigan Protesters Fueled Jon Hoadley’s Commitment To Run For Congress
If he wins his bid to represent the state’s Sixth District, Hoadley says he would reallocate police funding, improve health care, and invest in rural communities.
When armed protesters—including some of the men who have been charged with conspiring to kidnap and possibly murder Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer—stormed the state Capitol in April, Jon Hoadley was there.
Hoadley, who serves as a state representative for Kalamazoo, told The Appeal that the armed intruders actually strengthened his resolve to continue his bid to become Michigan’s first openly gay U.S. representative. Hoadley is running to unseat Republican Fred Upton in Michigan’s Sixth District.
“These types of experiences really help bolster in my gut why it’s so important that we see change and actually gets me more fueled to then stay committed and continue” working on issues including gun safety and police reform, Hoadley said.
Recent polls show that Hoadley may get a chance to do that work in Congress. While FiveThirtyEight reports that Upton is “slightly favored” to win the district, Real Clear Politics lists the race as a “Toss Up.”
Another recent experience highlighted the need to shift funding away from the 1033 program and other federal initiatives that provide police with military-grade hardware and toward, Hoadley said, “resources … that actually put more effective tools on the table.”
For example, Hoadley said, over the summer both he and a passing motorist noticed a toddler walking down Hoadley’s “very busy” street unsupervised. The motorist put the toddler in her car, pulled into Hoadley’s driveway, and 911 was called.
“It’s nice there’s one number that we know we can call to get help,” Hoadley said. “But even then, the 911 dispatch only sent an officer for an abandoned 3-year-old and [the officer] showed up without even a kid’s seat, a car seat, for the child. We needed a car seat and a social worker.”
Hoadley added that the incident “speaks to this idea that even those that have taken an oath to protect and serve don’t possess the tools to be able to protect and serve,” and he’d like to divert resources toward “dealing with the real problems we’re facing, as opposed to solutions that have been militarizing [the police] and escalating tension.”
In addition to reallocating police resources, Hoadley would like Congress to pass legislation creating local police civilian review boards nationwide. The legislation, he said, could include creating a set of best practices for review boards and tying federal support of local police departments to the creation of the boards.
Hoadley also supports government-subsidized health care, free college tuition, and student loan forgiveness.
“I live in the home of the Kalamazoo Promise,” a 15-year-old program funded by private donors that provides full tuition and fees for graduating seniors who have attended Kalamazoo’s public schools for their entire school career (and provides prorated amounts depending how long a student has been in the district). The promise funds attendance at 58 public and private institutions in Michigan.
“We’ve seen how that has changed people’s aspirations,” Hoadley said. “The idea that financial barriers, or at least tuition, won’t be the barrier that prevents you from going changes the type of aspirations that young people have. And we can live in a country where we remove that barrier for every student.”
“But, as we see time and time again, these are issues that … have gone to die in the U.S. Senate, and this is why we need to see broad-scale change,” he added.
One of those changes would be to unseat Upton, a Republican who has voted against expanding the Affordable Care Act, against extending housing assistance to people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and against allowing the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices. Upton also has a long history of voting to restrict abortion care, including supporting the proposed 20-week abortion ban.
“When it comes to the big decisions, Fred Upton always falls in line with his party’s line when they need it,” Hoadley said. “He does this time and time and time again.”
Upton has also followed the “party line” by refusing to condemn a Republican super PAC’s ad leveling personal attacks against Hoadley that have been condemned by LGBTQ activists as homophobic.
“I think campaigns really show people where you are and what you are,” Hoadley said of Upton’s silence about the ad. “He talks a lot about bipartisanship or civility, [but] he was quiet when the NRCC [National Republican Congressional Committee] and others were running QAnon-like conspiracy theories. So he’s shown us that when the chips are on the table, that he will fall in line with his party’s line.”
Although the current political scene has sometimes been frightening, Hoadley said his lived experience as a gay man “reminds me that everybody has something that they can contribute to public policy.”
“I’ve watched as the country has had an incredible change of heart on LGBTQ equality issues over the last 20 years,” said Hoadley, 37, who came out in high school. “That journey has instilled in me both a deep and profound respect for the idea that when we come together and we tell our authentic stories, that the personal becomes political and we can make very big change.”