In his own words, Adam Hollier is not the kind of man you want to have a beer with.
“Remember when George W. Bush was running and they said, ‘He’s the kind of guy you want to have a beer with?'” he told me, explaining his personality. “Nobody 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 sofa. I’m the friend you call when you’re on the side of the road. Right? For example, I’m the friend you call when you need a designated driver.”
He repeated it one more time, in case I didn’t get it the first time: “I’m no fun.”
Hollier, 36, a Democratic candidate for a seat in the United States House of Representatives 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 the track and played safety at Cornell University, despite being only 5 feet-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 six feet. His oldest sister is a federal investigator for the US Postal Service who attended the University of Michigan on a basketball and water polo scholarship.
“I grew up in a talented household. And I don’t really have much of it,’ Hollier said with self-effacing modesty. “My little sister is an incredible musician and singer and, you know, has done all those things. I can barely clap to the beat.”
Hollier is running—when I spoke to him, he was literally dropping his daughters off at daycare—to replace Representative Brenda Lawrence, a four-term congressman who announced her retirement early this year.
Her district, before an impartial commission remapped the boundaries widely seen as unfairly tilted toward Republicans, was one of the most heavily gerrymanded in the country, a salamander-like strip of land that snaked from Pontiac in the northwest across northern Detroit. to the upscale district. suburb of Grosse Pointe on Lake St. Clair, then south along the river toward River Rouge and Dearborn.
Defying the odds, Hollier has garnered approval after approval by doing what he’s always done – outdoing everyone.
Early on, Lawrence Portia endorsed Roberson, a Detroit-based attorney and nonprofit leader, but she hasn’t gained traction. In March, the Legacy Committee for Unified Leadership, a local coalition of black leaders led by Wayne County executive Warren Evans, approved Hollier.
In late June, Mike Duggan, the city’s mayor, did too. State Senator Mallory McMorrow, a fellow parent and new political celebrity, backed him in May. A video announcing her endorsement shows Hollier wearing a neon vest and pushing a double jogging stroller.
Hollier’s main opponent in the Democratic primary, Shri Thanedar, is a self-funding state legislator who ran for governor earlier in 2018, finishing third in the party’s 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 a lower class in India to his success as an entrepreneur in the United States.
Thanedar, a wealthy former engineer, 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 well as veteran groups and two super PACs backed by cryptocurrency donors. The outside spending helped Hollier offset Thanedar’s TV ad spend, which dwarfs him.
The son of a firefighter who couldn’t become a firefighter
Hollier, the son of a social worker and firefighter, remembers his father sitting him down when he was 8 years old and telling him never to 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 and retired from the police force after nearly 30 years as his own personal superhero, to be his own personal superhero.
“And that’s a weird experience,” Hollier said. ‘Cause, you know, on Career Day, there’s nothing quite like a firefighter, except an astronaut. The father of every child is their hero, but my father is objective’ objectivelyhe said again, emphasizing the word – ‘in that room’.
When he was 10 years old, in 1995, he persuaded his father to take him to the Million Man March in Washington, a National Mall gathering designed 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 — noting that when Martin Luther King Jr. Detroit just before his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, his father went to a baseball game instead.
Years later, Hollier sheepishly admitted that he rebelled against his father — 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 would run, but I always knew I was, right?” he said. “Like, I was always involved in the thing.”
For example, that same day in Washington, he met Dennis Archer, then mayor of Detroit, who told him that one day he would have to “think about what I’m doing”—an intoxicating experience for a 10-year-old. He took the advice to heart and won his first race for student body president in high school.
Hollier’s first official job in politics was in 2004, where he worked as an assistant to Buzz Thomas, a now-retired senator whom he considers his political mentor. Hollier lost a race for the State House in 2014 to then-incumbent Rose Mary Robinson. In 2018, he was elected to the state Senate, where he worked on auto insurance overhauls and the removal of lead pipes.
But the achievement he is most proud of, he said, is the drive to save jobs in his district after General Motors closed a factory in Hamtramck shortly after taking office. In a panic, he called Archer, who gave him a list of 10 things he should do immediately.
One of the top items on Archer’s list was tracking down former Senator Carl Levin, an old union friend who had recently retired and had never met.
Don’t accept GM closing the plant, Levin told him as they spoke.
“They’re not going to produce the vehicles they’re producing there now,” Hollier told Levin. “But you’re fighting for the next product line.”
Hollier took that advice to heart and worked with a coalition of others to lead GM toward a different solution. The site is now known as Factory Zero, the company’s first factory entirely dedicated to electric vehicles.
Motivations and milestones
If Hollier loses, Michigan will likely have no black congressmen for the first time in seven decades.
When I ask him what that means to him, he jumps into a passionate speech about how important it is for black Americans, and for young black men in particular, to have positive role models. I suspect he’s given some version of it all his life in politics.
Growing up in northern Detroit, Hollier often ran into his own Representative, John Conyers, the longest-serving African-American congressman. Conyers, who died in 2019 at the age of 90, was known for walking through every nook and cranny of his district.
But when Hollier knocked on his first door the first time he ran to the office, the woman who opened it asked him, “Are you going to disappoint me like Kwame?” — a reference to Kwame Kilpatrick, the disgraced former mayor of Detroit.
That experience sobered him when he ran as a black man in Detroit, a highly segregated city where black men are disproportionately likely to end up out of work or in prison. But it also motivated him to prove the woman wrong.
On his 25th birthday, Hollier recalled going to get some food at a store near his parents’ house. When told about the milestone, the man behind the counter replied: “Congratulations. Not everyone makes it.”
With just one day left before the primaries, Hollier spent 760 hours soliciting donations over the phone, raising more than $1 million. His campaign says it made 300,000 phone calls and knocked on 40,000 doors – double, he proudly tells me, what Representative Rashida Tlaib could do in the neighboring district.
But when I asked him if he would be at peace if he lost, he confessed, “That’s hard.”
He paused, then said, “I feel strongly that I’ve done everything I could have done.”
What to read?
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Madison Underwood, a 22-year-old woman from Tennessee, was delighted to learn that she was pregnant. But when a rare defect in the developing fetus threatened her life, she was thrown into post-Roe chaos. Neelam Bohra has the story.
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