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Jon Hoadley hopes to become Michigan's first openly gay congressman

Hoadley, a third-term state representative, is running for Congress in Michigan's 6th Congressional District.
Jon Hoadley is a Democratic member of the Michigan House of Representatives, representing District 60.
Jon Hoadley is a Democratic member of the Michigan House of Representatives, representing District 60.Fran Dwight

In 2017, Jon Hoadley came home one day to find his partner, Kris, sprawled on the bathroom floor.

“He was barely able to move, he had been throwing up for over 18 hours,” Hoadley, 37, told NBC News.

At the hospital, the couple received devastating news.

“The doctor comes in and says, ‘I think you have multiple sclerosis,’” he recalled the doctor telling Kris.

Hoadley said the constant headache of dealing with insurance companies and hospital bills since his partner’s diagnosis is a major reason he made affordable health care a priority in his campaign to represent Michigan's 6th Congressional District.

Jon Hoadley with his husband, Kris, left.
Jon Hoadley with his husband, Kris, left.Trumpie Photography

Another major reason, he said, is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has sickened over 136,000 and killed more than 7,000 people in Michigan, where nearly 7 percent of people under the age of 65 are uninsured, according to the Census Bureau.

“I'm not running to make history, I'm running to make change,” said Hoadley, a Democratic who, in addition to health care, is focusing his campaign on climate change and clean energy.

Hoadley, now in his third term as a state representative, is challenging Rep. Fred Upton, a moderate Republican who has represented the southwest Michigan district since 1986. Traditionally a conservative stronghold, the district voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. In this presidential election year, though, moderate voters have the potential swing the district, which sits on the Indiana border.

Hoadley, who grew up in South Dakota, has been an LGBTQ advocate since he was a student at Michigan State University, and he is a member of the Michigan Democrat's LGBT and Allies Caucus. If elected, Hoadley would be Michigan’s first openly gay member of Congress. He is one in a “rainbow” wave" of at least 850 LGBTQ people who have run for office this election cycle, up from 700 who ran in 2018, according to the Victory Fund, a group that trains, supports and advocates for LGBTQ candidates.

“This is a moment where we can show that we're ready for some big change,” Hoadley said. “And, you know, at the end of the day, though, the fact that I would be the first LGBT member of Congress from Michigan, I think it's an interesting footnote to history, but the thing that keeps me up at night is what's on the line if we don't make this historic change this year."

“We absolutely need to get health care right," he added. "We are in the middle of a global health pandemic and a health crisis.”

When it comes to health care, Hoadley said, it is "absolutely an issue that we need to be talking about in the LGBT community."

“We need to be tracking the statistics, we need to be making sure there are strong protections from discrimination, and we need to make sure that we are funding appropriately interventions that will specifically help some of the challenges that our community faces more so than other communities," he explained.

He also lamented the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back nondiscrimination protections for transgender people regulated under the Affordable Care Act.

“It's a reminder that though we've made progress, we have so much work to do,” he added.

In recent months, Hoadley has had to fight back controversy regarding his past. In August, the New York Post reported on 15-year-old blog posts Hoadley made when he was in college. In the since-deleted posts, Hoadley, according to the paper, "referred to women as 'breeders,'" "discussed learning about crystal meth," “described his sexual partners as 'victims'” and "included a reference to a 'four year old wearing a thong.'"

In response, the National Republican Congressional Committee attacked Hoadley in Twitter posts and voter mailers, referring to him as a “pedo sex poet.”

Hoadley, who publicly apologized for the posts in a Facebook video on Aug. 10, accused the NRCC of purposely “twisting” the posts, which he described as “slang” and “jokes,” to “use homophobia to paint a powerful story that has been debunked long ago.”

“They're trying to reach deep into these discriminatory stereotypes about gay men,” Hoadley added.

Last month, the LGBTQ Victory Fund condemned the attacks against Hoadley as homophobic.

Hoadley said he hopes voters in Michigan and beyond "realize how important their vote is this November."

“There are so many people who will use the forces of cynicism, who will lie about the difference between the candidates on the ballot, who will tell lies through social media to distract," he said, "and it is important that we stay focused, because we desperately need change in our country."

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