Washtenaw County Commissioner Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) on June 17 announced his campaign for Michigan State Representative of District 53 in the 2022 elections. If elected, Morgan will replace incumbent Yousef Rabhi (D-MI), who will complete his term-limited tenure in 2022.
Currently Washtenaw County Commissioner for District 8, Morgan was elected in 2016 and won re-election for his next two terms. Morgan was also elected to serve as the Chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners from 2019 to Jan. 2021, making him the first LGTBQ+ Chair in Ann Arbor history.
Since announcing his campaign, Morgan has been endorsed by half of Ann Arbor City Council members, over a dozen local community leaders and other elected officials in Washtenaw County.
For example, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor expressed his support for Morgan’s campaign in a press release.
“I am thrilled to support Jason’s candidacy for State Representative,” Taylor said. “Jason has the energy, drive, and compassion needed to be an effective voice for Ann Arbor residents. I look forward to working with him to move our community forward.”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Morgan said his advocacy for progressive policies will help represent Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County at the state level.
“I am running because I believe we need good representation in Lansing,” Morgan said. “I think we need somebody who is willing to be boldly progressive, forward-thinking and pragmatic all at the same time for Washtenaw County and for Ann Arbor. I believe that we can work on things like protecting our access to voting, and the environment and LGBTQ rights, and all these things. The representative for Ann Arbor has a uniquely powerful and large role in making sure that those voices are heard in our state legislature.”
As a member of the LGTBQ+ community, Morgan said community members have shared meaningful experiences of seeing him, a gay man, thrive as a public servant in Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County.
“It’s part of why I think it’s very important to be out and proud; to be gay and to make sure that people know that I am,” Morgan said. “Not because that’s a marker of a good public servant or not, but because representation does matter.”
Legislation against transgender athletes and other anti-transgender bills have been increasingly common in the United States since the start of 2021. Morgan said the work of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is happening at the state level, and he wants to continue to progress LGTBQ+ rights and push back against these anti-transgender and other discriminatory bills.
“My hope in getting elected would be to continue to advance LGTBQ+ rights,” Morgan said. “(To) make sure that people who are gay or transgender or otherwise, are not fired for who they are, they aren’t discriminated against based on housing or any other aspect of participating in our society, because of their identity. That is something that is still a struggle for the LGBTQ community, and particularly our transgender community and those who are black and brown in the LGBTQ+ community as well.”
Based on his experience as an instructor at Washtenaw Community College, Morgan said he believes in the importance of teaching and wants to make sure Michigan’s K-12 education system is getting the support it needs at the state level.
“Our K-12 education system has been so incredibly underfunded and our teachers have been taken for granted,” Morgan said. “We don’t serve our students well when we do that. We have teachers who want to do this work, they will want to show up and teach but the classrooms are falling apart. We have textbooks that are far outdated, and they lack the technology that they need to do their work. A lot of that is tied to funding, and the inequity in our state funding system…I think that’s one place where our state has done a terrible job over the past couple of decades.”
LSA sophomore Jacob Sendra is an intern for Morgan’s campaign for State Representative. Sendra intends to major in political science and has worked on multiple political campaigns on the local, state and national level.
An Ann Arbor local, Sendra participated in the Washtenaw County Youth Commission — a group that works with teenagers in Washtenaw County to discuss and educate students on local government issues — while in high school and met Morgan through his work in that program. Sendra said working with Morgan showed him how local government can impact the lives of people around him.
“He showed me the importance of advocacy at the local level,” Sendra said. “It’s really easy to (only) pay attention to national politics. But being involved in this commission and working with Jason, I really saw the effect local government has on everyone’s life and how important the progressive advocacy that Jason values so much is really necessary.”
Sendra also said he believes Morgan will bring progressive advocacy that is needed in the Michigan State Government if elected as State Representative.
“The State Legislature is Republican-dominated right now,” Sendra said. “Ann Arbor has had a long history of sending strong, progressive voices to Lansing. We really need to continue that legacy if we want to protect the fundamental rights that we have under assault by Republicans that are firmly behind Trumpism. We need progressive voices like Jason to combat that.”
Many of the issues Washtenaw County Commissioners work to address are linked to each other, according to Morgan. He said focusing on multiple policies in his campaign will ensure that everyone will have equal representation at the state level.
“A lot of these issues that we’ve talked about are so interconnected,” Morgan said. “My hope would be to continue to make sure that our state works for everybody, no matter your race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability status, socioeconomic status or anything about somebody’s identity or life situation.”
Daily News Editor Jasmin Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.