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Not Afraid

“I Want These Attacks to Stop”: Mallory McMorrow on Fighting Right-Wing Fearmongering

The Michigan state senator’s floor speech against Republican attacks went viral. Now she’s determined to turn the state blue.

Illustration by The New Republic

Mallory McMorrow only entered politics in 2018 at age 31, when she ran for the Michigan Senate and defeated a Republican incumbent in a swing district. Before that, her job was designing Hot Wheels model cars. But when she witnessed a racist incident at a middle school in her hometown of Royal Oak, Michigan, in which a group of white students shouted “Build the wall” at a Latino student, she was moved to action. She grew more and more outraged at the hatred she heard coming out of the mouths of so many Michigan Republicans, so much so that she decided it was her responsibility to send one into retirement.

As the world now knows, McMorrow was on the receiving end of that hatred in April, when a GOP colleague, Senator Lana Theis, with whom McMorrow had been casually friendly, sent out a fundraising pitch accusing McMorrow of wanting to “groom and sexualize” children and make white 8-year-olds feel guilty about slavery. In this Tomaskycast episode, McMorrow talks about how she first learned of Theis’s slanderous, QAnon-tinged statements and how she put together the speech she subsequently gave in the State Senate chamber that echoed around the world.

After recent redistricting, McMorrow’s swing district is now more safely blue, so she’s focusing her efforts and newfound fame on the goal of “flipping the Michigan state Senate to Democratic control for the first time since 1984,” she said. The party needs four seats in the Senate and three in the lower house—a tall order in a year like this one. But McMorrow pointed out to me that a Democrat, Carol Glanville, won a special election for state Senate last month in a district that went for Donald Trump by more than 14 points in 2020, so it’s far from a lost cause. She also talked about her fight against efforts to strip reproductive rights in Michigan and across the country, and how important Michigan is in taking the pulse of national politics.

Watch the episode here: