Casey Hoffman, candidate for mayor of Menominee, stands to become one of the only known openly LGBTQ+ Republican elected officials in Michigan history. It’s a distinction Hoffman is proud of. Municipal elections are nonpartisan, so Pride Source began by exploring what residents of Menominee can expect under Hoffman’s leadership before delving into what makes this gay Republican tick.
For those unfamiliar with the U.P.’s fourth-largest city, Hoffman, a fifth-generation resident of his hometown, said Menominee has some of the kindest folks anywhere.
“Yoopers are like Canadians, but with more firearms,” he quipped. “Menominee, Michigan is a retirement community settled on the bay of Green Bay [Wisconsin]. We have stunning views of Lake Michigan that rival anything you could ever see in the Hamptons. The people, the views, the culture and the kindness are what helped raise me and brought me back to Menominee.”
Hoffman said he’s running “for all the right reasons.” He wants to secure funding for the Spies Public Library, where he is a trustee and where his mother was a librarian. Providing tax breaks and tax incentives so businesses choose Menominee is another priority. And Hoffman has plans to lead the city into the future. At 34, he would be Menominee’s youngest mayor.
If elected, Hoffman has a plan to end the marijuana lawsuits that have plagued the city. Voters approved recreational dispensaries, but city hall “bungled the process” and only granted two licenses. That’s inconsistent with Hoffman’s free market values. He wishes to uncap the market, allowing for more. At the same time, he believes in treating marijuana the same as tobacco and alcohol: no billboards that might influence kids and the strongest penalties for anyone bringing marijuana into a school district or polluting their neighbors with unwanted odors.
“I am also running to remove the hinges from America's last closed closet door: the Michigan Republican Party,” Hoffman said.
From a young age, Hoffman has been interested in politics. Elected president of the Michigan Association of Student Councils at 17, Hoffman is also proud of his stint with Democratic Congressmember Bart Stupak following Stupak’s vote to pass the Affordable Care Act. Stupak was the deciding vote in the House of Representatives after being a hold out for his stance against federal funding for abortion. For that, Stupak wasn’t treated well by either party. “Bart Stupak taught me to always work with the other side of the aisle,” Hoffman said. “Bart Stupak is a great role model to me because he was willing to sacrifice his career to do what he believed was right.”
It was in Stupak’s office that Hoffman met friend Jason Morgan, the openly gay Democratic state rep from Ann Arbor. Morgan is currently first vice chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. “I’m so glad to see Casey running for mayor,” Morgan said. “He is smart, passionate and dedicated to public service. We need more young people to stay in their hometowns after college to give back to the communities that raised us.”
Hoffman is no far-right extremist. But while the mere existence of an LGBTQ+ Republican is a conundrum to many, Hoffman remains sincere in his beliefs. “Casey and I come from different political parties but have always found that there are more common sense policy solutions that we agree on than those that separate us by political party,” Morgan said. “Don’t get me wrong, a large part of our friendship has included robust friendly banter about who is right about some big political issues and which candidates we support. But we’ve always found that having the conversation strengthens both of our understanding of how we can work together and bring people together.”
As for Hoffman, he sees no conflict between his sexuality and political beliefs.
“Being a Republican and being a conservative and being gay — those are not contradictory things,” Hoffman insisted. “I cannot think of anything more conservative or more Republican than keeping the government out of my personal romantic decisions. Keeping the government out of people's bedrooms and out of people's homes and out of people's romantic lives is inherently a limited government Republican position.”
Yet when pressed, Hoffman conceded that no one welcomes the government into their bedrooms. A self-proclaimed “Lincoln-style Republican,” Hoffman said the Republican party of today does not comport with the Republican values with which he was raised. He named John McCain and Mitt Romney as honorable leaders of his party.
Calling himself a fiscal conservative who likes free markets and choice, “I do not want to limit the rights, privileges or equality of anyone I meet,” Hoffman said. “I have personally experienced what it's like to have my diversity referenced as a negative. I want to make sure that I am a Republican who is inclusive and kind and socially compassionate.”
Because of his sexuality, Hoffman admits he is not accepted by some members of his own party. Regrettably, he said, that may have been a factor in his primary loss for state rep in the 2022 midterm elections. Hoffman believes the Republican Party is not “yet” welcoming to LGBTQ+ people “but it will be.”
And as for whether there is room in his party for trans women of color, “There is, but the party doesn’t know it.” The Republican Party’s latest obsession with targeting transgender people and drag queens is troubling to Hoffman; he believes his party has been co-opted by individuals who don’t hold the true values of the Republican Party at heart.
“Free speech is a fundamentally Republican value,” Hoffman said. “I do not understand why my party is attacking drag queens and transgender people every time a drag queen puts on a flamboyant outfit or every time a trans [woman] puts on heels and pearls. Those people are sending a message — a nonverbal message of free speech that is challenging the gender binary. I think we need to support the free speech values that drag queens and that transgender people are demonstrating in 2023.”
Like many conservatives, Hoffman wants to return to the Republicanism of years past. But he’s realistic: He said it will require the efforts of honorable, noble Republicans stepping up at the grassroots level to fight on the front lines of democracy. “Donald Trump will not be around forever,” Hoffman said, with hope.
Outside of politics, Hoffman is a research lawyer who earned his juris doctorate from Marquette University Law School. Before that, he studied at Albion College where he was elected student body president and later served on the board of trustees. Today, he works on a contract basis specializing in LGBTQ-related cases such as adoption, divorce and estate planning. Hoffman is also a substitute teacher, which he called “one of the most unexpected loves of my life.” Witnessing young people fight for inclusion and for LGBTQ+ rights is something Hoffman called a privilege.
In his spare time, Hoffman enjoys volunteering on the board of directors of the DAR Boys and Girls Club in Menominee. He also cares for “plant babies” and a family dog, but Hoffman sees himself raising kids someday. Previously married to a male partner, today he says “I am in a long-term relationship with the state of Michigan.”
If elected, Pride Source asked whether the LGBTQ+ community can expect to see June declared Pride Month in Menominee.
“Heck, yes,” Hoffman replied, then quickly corrected himself in true Yooper form: “You betcha.”