All Politics Is Local: Jon Hoadley for State Representative, 60th District

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We are incredibly fortunate here in Kalamazoo to have an enviably deep bench when it comes to smart, committed people who are willing to step up to serve in leadership positions. I can’t think of a better example of that than the roster of challengers in the Democratic primary for state representative in the 60th district. Last fall, it was looking like choosing among the three worthy candidates was going to be a very difficult decision. But since then, at least for me, one candidate has emerged as the clear choice and the best fit for the 60th district, and that is Jon Hoadley.

Last November, two dear friends invited me to a party at their home to meet Jon. I was reluctant at first to attend, because as anyone who gets invited to a lot of political events well knows, there is usually the expectation that attendees will make campaign contributions. I knew there were multiple candidates vying for the nomination and I was not ready to make a commitment – let alone a campaign contribution – to one. So I didn’t respond to the invitation right away. Anticipating my concern, the party hosts, Jeffrey and David, said, “Just come and meet Jon. That’s all we’re asking.”

So I went. The first thing that struck me as I walked in the door was how thoughtful and organized Jon and his campaign team were, and how well prepared they were for the campaign even 9 months out from the primary. From the campaign materials distributed at the party (which were creative and effective and from which I got some great ideas to try in various projects of my own) and the interaction among the team and the guests, it was clear that they had already done a phenomenal amount of work to craft an overall vision and plan for the campaign.

Jon and his campaign team made it look easy as they interacted with guests and shared information about Jon’s candidacy while also listening and engaging with the interests and concerns of the guests, but it takes a lot of hard work and preparation to make anything look that easy. I chatted with several members of the team, all of them intelligent, interesting, and engaged young people. And then I met Jon and listened what he had to say. I was impressed immediately by his understanding of the issues, his communication and listening skills, and most of all his values, including his ability to articulate them in a compelling way and his determination to act on them on behalf of others. His top priorities include public re-investment in education and infrastructure and support for LGBTQ rights, women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of working people and famiiles. So do mine.

As I’ve gotten to know Jon over the past 10 months, I have had occasion to work with him on other projects unrelated to his campaign for state representative. In my capacity as president of the WMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, I had the opportunity to work with Jon and his firm, Badlands Strategies, on a project for the WMU-AAUP contract and retention campaigns. In fact, we invited Badlands to submit a proposal in part because of how impressive and engaging his campaign materials had been at Jeffrey and David’s house party that night. The materials not only got my attention, but they also provided me with a ton of great ideas for how we could do a better job of engaging WMU-AAUP members for the chapter’s contract campaign and campus events. In the months after Jeffrey and David’s party, follow-ups from the campaign via email and social media only increased my admiration for Jon’s talents, work ethic, and incredible smarts.

In addition to working together, Jon and I have also become friends, and it has been interesting to observe the development of his campaign and to see this energetic, passionate, and really quite brilliant young man thrive throughout the process. He was as upbeat, motivated, and determined when I saw him two days ago as he was last fall. There is no question in my mind but that Jon has the stamina to thrive in even the most challenging of environments (and the GOP-controlled state legislature is certainly that).

Our local newspaper, the Kalamazoo Gazette, has chosen to endorse another candidate in the primary. They note that Jon is “personable and bright, a strong advocate for LGBT rights” and “able to provide insightful analysis of complex issues, such as education policy,” but withhold their endorsement on the grounds that “he has never held public office.” I have heard similar comments, focusing on Jon’s relative youth (he’s 30), from one or two older acquaintances around town.

Knowing Jon, I can say unequivocally that I believe these concerns to be without foundation. As the Gazette conceded, his knowledge of the issues is deep and nuanced, and his understanding of how politics works is sophisticated and thoughtful. For an example of the kinds of things Jon is capable of accomplishing, locals in the 60th district need only look to the One Kalamazoo campaign in 2009, which led to the passage by an overwhelming majority of an anti-discrimination ordinance. As campaign manager for One Kalamazoo, Jon and his team engaged and mobilized diverse communities of people, guided by a wisdom beyond his years, an off-the-charts work ethic, and political instincts from which many politicians twice his age could learn a lot. His talents for building coalitions, generating support and excitement for new ideas, and then doing the difficult work of turning those ideas into action will serve us well if we do the right thing and send him to Lansing.

My mind was made up about Jon some time ago, but because this is going to be a tightly contested primary election, I am going on the record (here and as a community endorser of the campaign) in support of his candidacy. We are indeed fortunate to be in a position to choose among three very fine people who are willing to serve, and I am sure that any one of the three candidates would probably vote in the legislature the way I would want my state rep to vote.

But I am supporting Jon because he will do a lot more than just vote right. He has the energy and – more important – the courage to stand up for his constituents and for what’s right, to challenge the status quo, to shake things up in Lansing. As anyone who has been paying attention to state-level politics knows, just voting right isn’t enough anymore. We’ve got to have proactive leadership. For the 60th district in 2014, that means we’ve got to elect Jon Hoadley.

So, local friends and colleagues in the 60th district, please make a point of going to the polls on August 5. And when you get there, if you share my values (and Jon’s) and my desire for active, progressive leadership, I strongly encourage you to join me in voting for Jon Hoadley.

 


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