By his own admission, Adam Hollier is not the kind of guy you want to drink beer with.
“Remember when George W. Bush was running around and they were like, ‘Is this the kind of guy you want to have a beer with?'” he told me, to explain his personality. “No one wants to have a beer with me.”
Why not, I asked?
“I’m no fun,” he said. “I’m the friend you call to move a heavy couch. I’m the friend you call when you’re stuck on the side of the road. Right? For example, I’m the friend you call when you need a designated driver. »
He said it again, in case I didn’t get it the first time: “I’m no fun.”
Hollier, 36, a Democratic candidate for a House seat in Michigan’s newly redesigned 13th congressional district, which includes Detroit and Hamtramck, is a whirlwind of perpetual motion. A captain and paratrooper in the Army Reserves, he ran track and played safety at Cornell University when he was just 5-foot-9. After a fellowship with AmeriCorps, he earned a graduate degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan.
Hollier’s brother, who is 11 years older, is 6-foot-5. His older sister is a federal investigator for the US Postal Service who went to the University of Michigan on a basketball and water polo scholarship.
“I grew up in a talented family. And I don’t really have many,” Hollier said with self-effacing modesty. “My little sister is an amazing musician and singer and, you know, did all those things. I can barely clap in rhythm.
Hollier is running — when I spoke to him, he was literally doing it to drop his daughters off at daycare — to replace Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a four-term MP who announced her retirement earlier this year.
His district, before a nonpartisan commission redrew borders that were widely seen as unfairly slanted toward Republicans, was one of the most heavily gerrymandered in the country, a salamander-like strip of land that meandered from Pontiac into the northwest through northern Detroit to the upscale suburb of Grosse Pointe on Lake St. Clair, then south down the river to River Rouge and Dearborn.
Defying the odds, Hollier racked up endorsement after endorsement by doing what he’s always done – outdo everyone.
Early on, Lawrence endorsed Portia Roberson, a Detroit lawyer and nonprofit leader, but she failed to gain traction. In March, the Legacy Committee for Unified Leadership, a local coalition of black leaders led by Wayne County executive Warren Evans, instead endorsed Hollier.
At the end of June, Mike Duggan, the mayor of the city too. State Sen. Mallory McMorrow, another parent and political newcomer, backed him in May. A video announcing his endorsement shows Hollier wearing a neon vest and pushing a double jogging stroller.
Hollier’s main challenger in the Democratic primary, Shri Thanedar, is a self-funded state lawmaker who previously ran for governor in 2018 and came third in the party primary behind Gretchen Whitmer and Abdul El. -Sayed. His autobiography, “The Blue Suitcase: Tragedy and Triumph in an Immigrant’s Life”, originally written in Marathi, tells the story of his rise from lower-class origins in India to success as an entrepreneur. in the USA.
A wealthy former engineer, Thanedar now owns Avomeen Analytical Services, a chemical testing lab in Ann Arbor. He has spent at least $8 million of his own money on the race so far, according to campaign finance reports.
Pro-Israel groups, concerned about his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have backed Hollier, as have veterans’ groups and two super PACs backed by cryptocurrency donors. The outside spending allowed Hollier to offset Thanedar’s TV ad spend, which dwarfs his own.
A firefighter’s son who couldn’t become a firefighter
The son of a social worker and a firefighter, Hollier recalls his father sitting him down when he was 8 and telling him he should never follow in his footsteps.
When asked why, his father replied, “You don’t have that little bit of healthy fear that brings you home at night.”
The comment stunned young Hollier, who still considers his father, who led the Detroit Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Response Team and retired as captain after serving in the force for almost 30 years old, his own personal superhero.
“And it’s a weird experience,” Hollier said. “Because, you know, on Career Day, nothing beats a firefighter but an astronaut. Every kid’s dad is their hero, but my dad is, you know, objectively” – objectivelyhe repeated emphasizing the word – “in this space”.
When he was 10, in 1995, he persuaded his father to take him to the Million Man March in Washington, a rally on the National Mall that aimed to highlight the challenges of growing up black and male in America. They went to the top of the Washington Monument, where young Adam insisted on taking a photo to get a better idea of the size of the crowd.
His parents were ‘not political at all’, he said – he notes that when Martin Luther King Jr. visited Detroit just before his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, his father went to a baseball game instead.
Years later, Hollier shyly admitted that he had rebelled against his father by becoming a volunteer firefighter in college.
Early interest in politics
Hollier was a political animal from an early age, he acknowledged.
“I know it’s fashionable for people to say they never thought they’d run for office, but I always knew I was, didn’t I? ” he said. “Like, I was always involved in the thing.”
On the same day in Washington, for example, he met Dennis Archer, the mayor of Detroit at the time, who told him that he should “think about doing what I do” someday – a heady experience for a child. 10 years old. He took the council to heart, winning his first race for high school student council president.
Hollier’s first official job in politics was in 2004, as an aide to Buzz Thomas, a now-retired state senator whom he considers his political mentor. Hollier lost a race for State House in 2014 to then-incumbent Rose Mary Robinson. In 2018, he was elected to the state senate, where he worked on an auto insurance review and the removal of lead pipes.
But the achievement he is most proud of, he said, is scrambling to save jobs in his district after General Motors closed a plant in Hamtramck just after he took office. Panicking, he called Archer, who gave him a list of 10 things to do right away.
One of the main items on Archer’s list was to track down former senator Carl Levin, a longtime union friend who had just retired and whom he had never met.
Don’t accept GM closing the plant, Levin told him during their conversation.
“They’re not going to produce the vehicles that they’re producing there right now,” Hollier recounted, telling Levin. “But you are fighting for the next product line.”
Hollier took that advice to heart and worked with a coalition of others to steer GM toward a different solution. The site is now known as Factory Zero, the company’s first factory dedicated entirely to electric vehicles.
Motivations and milestones
If Hollier loses, Michigan will likely have no black members of Congress for the first time in seven decades.
When I ask him what this means to him, he launches into an impassioned speech about the importance for black Americans, and young black men in particular, to have positive role models. I suspect he gave a version of it throughout his political life.
Growing up in North Detroit, Hollier often met her own representative, John Conyers, the longest-serving African-American congressman. Conyers, who died in 2019 at the age of 90, was known to walk every nook and cranny of his neighborhood.
But when Hollier knocked on his first door the first time he ran for office, the woman who opened it asked, “Are you going to disappoint me like Kwame?” – a reference to Kwame Kilpatrick, the disgraced former mayor of Detroit.
This experience deterred him from running for office as a black man in Detroit, a highly segregated city where black men are disproportionately likely to end up unemployed or in prison. But it also motivated him to prove the woman wrong.
On her 25th birthday, Hollier remembers going to get food from a store near her parents’ house. Informed of the milestone, the man behind the counter replied, “Congratulations. Not everyone makes it. »
With just one day left until the primary, Hollier spent 760 hours asking for donations over the phone, raising more than $1 million. His campaign says he made 300,000 phone calls and knocked on 40,000 doors – double, he tells me proudly, what Rep. Rashida Tlaib was able to do in the neighboring neighborhood.
But when I asked him if he would be at peace if he lost, he admitted: “It’s difficult.”
He paused for a moment, then said, “I feel like I’ve done everything I could have done.
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