KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Voters in the 60th District, which encompasses the City of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Township, overwhelmingly elected Jon Hoadley Tuesday to the Michigan’s House of Representatives. He will be the region’s first openly gay representative.
Hoadley is the president and owner of Badlands Strategies, “a progressive public affairs firm specializing in coalition management, fundraising, donor advising and advocacy campaigns.” According to his website, he has worked with labor groups, women’s rights groups and other progressive organizations to tell their stories.
Hoadley told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that he has always wanted to run for public office.
“I’ve always been interested in public service, so the idea of running for office someday was something that was on my mind,” said Hoadley. “But the opportunity with so many choices and big decisions coming open in 2014, [that] really inspired me to get in the race.”
He also said he didn’t think twice about running as an openly gay man.
“For me, I always want to be open and honest about my life, and I think voters and the people who we’re representing want authentic politicians,” he said.
Hoadley, a Democrat, won by a large margin over his Republican opponent — he had 70% of the vote to Mike Perrin’s 30%.
“I was really honored to win so many votes here in the 60th District. We worked really hard and we knocked on a lot of doors,” said Hoadley. “I was thrilled that people knew about this part of my life and they took it as one of the positive sets of experiences that I can bring to the office, so it was exciting we didn’t see the anti-gay rhetoric that sometimes crops up.”
But even the margin of his victory is something he hopes to address when he reaches Lansing.
“That was an incredible margin, but ultimately we are seeing a lot of those type of lopsided victories across Michigan and so I think this is really about starting a conversation to make sure everyone has fair representation across the state of Michigan,” said Hoadley. “The challenges facing Michigan aren’t Democratic problems or Republican problems, and so when we have predominantly Democratic districts or predominantly Republican districts, maybe it takes us off of the conversations we need to be having about what’s best for all of Michigan.”
While gay rights are obviously important to Hoadley and to many of his friends and family members, he said they are by no means the only thing he plans to tackle at the state capitol.
“I think it’s interesting that over the next month, we are going to see a lot of conversation about amending the Elliott-Larsen [Civil Rights] Act to make sure that no one is fired or denied housing because of who they are,” said Hoadley. “I’m excited to see that hopefully we can make progress on these issues, and then tackle the other things that we all care about, like fixing the roads and making sure we have education today and tomorrow.”
Education for everyone is one of the major issues he plans to focus on in Lansing. As a part of his candidacy, he posted a five-point education plan to “strengthen public education” (pdf).
Equal rights and women’s access to health care are also major issues he hopes to address in the legislature.
Hoadley said he knows that will take a bipartisan effort and said he excited about the prospect of stretching his hand across the aisle and making real progress. In fact, he said the first thing he plans to do on day one is introduce himself to everyone and starting building relationships.
“If we are trying to build a civil Michigan that can tackle adult problem like adults, that means you work with people even if you don’t agree with them on every issue. And if you’re doing that in a polite and respectful way, I think you can really build a bridge and some commonality to tackle these things together,” Hoadley said.
One other openly gay person, Chris Kolb, has previously served in the state legislature, representing Ann Arbor from 2001 to 2006.
Also elected to the state House Tuesday night was openly gay candidate Jeremy Moss will represent the 35th District seat, which covers the Southfield area on the east side of the state.