While Jon Hoadley isn't running for office this election cycle, the openly gay former state representative hasn't been politically idle. Quite the opposite.
Hoadley and his friend Jason Franklin have been busy relaunching the West Michigan Progress PAC, a political action committee supporting state level and down ballot candidates in the west and southwest Michigan region.
"The PAC is focusing on progressive candidates who can make a difference in the offices they're running for," Hoadley said. "So not just state legislative races, which we know is incredibly important because of the impact on statewide laws, but we'll be looking at county commission races to school board races and community college trustees."
Hoadley said his region of Michigan hasn't adequately supported progressive candidates for some time. He hopes the West Michigan Progressive PAC will address that need.
"One reason that we're focusing on the geographical area of west Michigan and southwest Michigan is because a lot of progressive investment that is happening across the state is really focused on southeast Michigan," he explained. "Having something that is focused geographically helps us make sure that we can define an area of investment."
That area is shifting blue. Starting at the local level, Hoadley wants to build a pipeline of diverse, progressive candidates "from the ground up." He called the increasing diversity of the region a major shift that many people in the state don't realize is happening.
"There is a growing Latino/Latina population in many parts of west and southwest Michigan," Hoadley noted. "There's indigenous tribes that live here; we have both African Americans in urban settings and a significant African American rural population that a lot of folks do not know about; and there's a growing API (Asian and Pacific Islander) population in Kent County."
As the population diversifies, the need for a reflective democracy where elected officials share the values of their constituents couldn't be more vital, Hoadley said.
The West Michigan Progress PAC is set up as a state independent PAC, which means they have flexibility in how donations are spent to meet the most critical needs. "That could be supporting candidates," Hoadley said. "It could also be talking directly to voters and paying for that communication. It can also be weighing in for, or against, a ballot measure that impacts all of us statewide."
Because the West Michigan Progress PAC supports only state level and down ballot races, it wouldn't have benefited Hoadley in his unsuccessful 2020 bid for Congress. But he says the kind of support he hopes to offer would have been welcome during his campaigns for state legislature.
"When I was first running for office as a state legislator, [the PAC] didn't exist," he said. "And I'm hoping that this can be an outlet to give other folks who are going to be good on so many key issues that we're facing as a state a start to impact public policy."
Note: The final map for investments will be completed after the 2021 redistricting but will range across the 10-county region from Muskegon to Berrien counties and from the Lakeshore east to Kent, Barry, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties.