Spurred to Action
Fifteen years ago, when John Kerry ran for president against George W. Bush, Kerry came to Michigan for a rally at Macomb University. For Jody LaMacchia, today a candidate for state representative, attending that rally was her first real political activity.
“No one wanted to go with me,” LaMacchia said with a laugh.
So, she grabbed her 1-year-old son, put him in his stroller and off they went. The line was long, but LaMacchia was undeterred.
“I was really excited,” LaMacchia said. “I got interviewed by a reporter, and they asked, ’Did you wait to see John Kerry, or were you waiting to see Jon Bon Jovi?’” referring to the performer who was featured at the rally, too. A little incredulous about what seemed so obvious to her, LaMacchia said, “We waited in line two hours to see John Kerry!”
And when Kerry lost to Bush, LaMacchia said she was devastated, but she was motivated, too. She began to work in earnest on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign when she signed on as a team leader for her hometown of Oxford. She and her team knocked on doors every weekend.
“I decided I was never going to sit on the sidelines again,” she said.
And since then, LaMacchia has worked for candidates in national, state and local races, knocking on doors, making phone calls, hosting house parties and holding fundraisers. Currently chair of the North Oakland Democratic Club, LaMacchia also founded North Oakland Women – Making a Difference following Obama’s campaign. The group was formed as a means to stay in touch and phone bank for various causes and eventually evolved into a significant force in the 2018 election that “moved the needle” to the left in local races and even in conservative districts.
If a blue wave is coming to north Oakland County, a win by Jody LaMacchia in 2020 would make it a rainbow wave, too. LaMacchia stands to become the first openly gay woman elected to the Michigan state legislature. Three openly gay men — Jeremy Moss in the state Senate, along with Tim Sneller and Jon Hoadley in the state House — are officeholders now. LaMacchia is only the second openly LGBTQ woman in Michigan’s history to run for state House or Senate — Garnet Lewis can claim the title of first.
Being an openly gay candidate, LaMacchia said she and her wife, Samantha, have discussed the possibility of backlash. She said she is fully prepared, but that she has not experienced homophobia in her district, however conservative its reputation. She described Oxford as being accepting, a place where she can gather with other families to watch football and where her son brings friends over to their house.
On her campaign website, LaMacchia chose to include a family photo with her wife and 15-year-old son by a previous marriage. Doing so was a very conscious choice.
“I think my wife was actually a little more hesitant about that than I was because I think she was feeling protective of me,” LaMacchia said. “For me, I feel like there isn’t any point in doing it if I’m not going to be authentic to myself. That’s who I’ve always been. That’s the kind of person I am. And if people like me, and think I’ll make a good representative … [they will] vote for me. … And if they don’t vote for me because I’m married to a woman, then that’s really unfortunate. But I don’t think that’s going to be the issue.”
Bridging the Divide
Today her district is trending less conservative, but LaMacchia said she’s not taking any chances. Part of her strategy is starting early, and she was the first to file for state House. Her district, Michigan’s 46th, includes Addison Township, Brandon Township, Orion Township, Oxford Township and a portion of Oakland Charter Township. Despite the large swath of land to cover, she said she has enough experience knocking on doors and talking with people of all political persuasions that she believes, meeting people, listening to their concerns and finding common ground is a winning approach.
For LaMacchia, “Bridging the Divide” is more than a campaign slogan, it’s rooted in her life’s work for the past 17 years, as a family counselor and conciliator at Oakland County circuit court. There, she helps parents involved in high conflict custody and parenting disputes resolve their differences. It’s all about bringing people together, she said.
“Even people that are in a divorce [where] there’s tears and crying and anger and they don’t think they’ll ever be able to agree, I hear that all the time. But they do. And I help them come to some middle ground,” she said. “[It’s] not about each side getting everything they want, but compromise. In this case, it’s about compromise for the sake of our district or our state. That’s kind of my specialty.
“All of my career has really centered around helping people,” LaMacchia continued. “And I feel like the best way to help people is to be in office, changing laws or creating laws, getting rid of laws that hurt people. … That’s probably the greatest way to make change right now.”
Critical Issues, Including ELCRA
If elected, LaMacchia said she’d prioritize addressing disinvestment in education, the condition of Michigan’s infrastructure and safeguarding the state’s drinking water and water supply. She added too that concerns over the expense of health care and prescription drugs came up consistently when she talked to voters in the last election cycle.
“I think that most of these issues are things that most people can get behind, but I feel like sometimes we’re so rooted in our ‘R’ or ‘D’ position,” LaMacchia said. “I also think that the climate is such that most people are … tired of the toxicity, the nasty things that one side says about the other side, or lack of the ability to get anything done. I have no intention of perpetuating gridlock.”
Another issue that LaMacchia values, amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for LGBTQ Michiganders, could potentially come before the legislature in the next term. While she said would certainly like to see that happen, she added that it’s not just because it affects a community with which she identifies.
“It’s not really about me,” said LaMacchia, referring to amending ELCRA. “I don’t really, totally understand why anyone can justify being against that. This is just basic common sense. Why aren’t we including this community that is so often — especially the trans community right now — so under attack? We all should be protected.”
LaMacchia noted too that Republican Melvin Larsen, made famous in 1977 because of ELCRA, was a state representative from Oxford. His support was critical to bringing his fellow Republicans on board and LaMacchia said she is hopeful that she, potentially another legislator from Oxford, can extend the existing protections to include the LGBTQ community in the near future.
To find out more information about Jody visit jody2020.com.