Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak, Michigan remembers a startling thing that happened in her neighborhood in October 2016. “There was a stereotypical Midwest family living down the street from me with two daughters,” said McMorrow. “Two days after the the Access Hollywood tape leaked, where our now-president bragged about grabbing women by the pussy, this family took down their American flag and put up a Trump sign.”
“I remember thinking, ‘How do you tell your daughters that this is not only acceptable behavior but that it’s laudable?’” This was the moment that McMorrow decided to enter politics. “I decided on that day that we needed better leaders,” said McMorrow. “I didn’t know the election was going to go the way it was. I didn’t know the Women’s March was going to happen. I already knew that day, I was going to step up.”
Through a Facebook activist group, McMorrow heard about Emerge America, a program that recruits and trains women to run for office. During Emerge America’s six-month program, McMorrow joined 22 other women from around the state, all with the shared goal of entering politics.
For McMorrow, this network of supportive, mobilized women was integral to building her own campaign. “It’s so nice to be able to check in with the other women,” she said. “I don’t know if I would be able to do this without the support network that we’ve built.”
McMorrow was particularly impressed by the age range—from 26 to 66—and the professional diversity. “There were teachers, lawyers, and nurses; everyone had done something different before,” said McMorrow. “Every woman just got into this room and into this program to make a difference. They said they wanted to make a positive impact on their community. This is so different than what you hear from men. Men say things like, ‘I always wanted to be a senator.’”
Before moving to Michigan in 2015, McMorrow had spent the past decade living and working between New York and Los Angeles. During that time, she forged an expansive career path, working as the creative director of Gawker Media in New York, a senior designer for Mattel on the west coast, and as a car designer for Mazda. Before running, McMorrow says she thought about her own professional background and realized: “I know how to manage different personalities, drastically different viewpoints, and a really big budget…I’m ready for this.”
In 2015, McMorrow moved to Royal Oak, Michigan, a small town outside of Detroit. “I’ve never lived anywhere that I love as much,” McMorrow said. “In Royal Oak, you’re immediately made a part of the community and I feel much more ingrained in this place than I ever did in New York or LA.”
For many towns, 2015 was a year of political tumult. Royal Oak, Michigan was no exception. “The election divided the community,” said McMorrow. “People stopped talking to each other. You could sense the tension just by going to Trader Joe’s. Everyone was on edge.”
“Many people ask me, ‘Why do you live in Michigan?’ I respond, ‘Michigan used to lead the world. It’s the home of mid century modern design, we have the auto industry—Michigan used to be the center of it all and there is so much potential,’” she said. “We can’t go backwards but we can be inspired by what we’ve had and move forward.”
n looking forward, McMorrow wants to focus on issues like water protection. Michigan holds over 20 percent of the world’s supply of surface fresh water, and McMorrow hopes to advance green energy and infrastructure in order to protect the Great Lakes, in addition to creating a green industry.
Most important to McMorrow is education. “Michigan unfortunately unleashed [Secretary of Education] Betsy DeVos on the world,” said McMorrow. “I see first-hand the impact of her and her family creating unchecked charter schools and I speak to teachers everyday who say they wouldn’t advise anyone else to go into teaching and that’s heartbreaking.”
“Right now, there is no one in the legislature that is daring enough to believe that Michigan can lead,” states McMorrow. “We can be one of the most innovative states in the country but we need people who believe in that first.”
McMorrow is currently running unopposed in the primaries, but she is up against a second-generation Republican incumbent in the general election. “He’s the current sitting state senator and his dad was Congressman for 16 years. He has all the name recognition in the world,” said McMorrow.
Though she may face a tough battle, McMorrow is far from discouraged. During the presidential election, Trump narrowly won with 47.6 percent of votes compared to Hillary Clinton’s 47.3 percent. Now, McMorrow believes people want to change that. “Particularly women,” said McMorrow. “We have a lot of women who weren’t that engaged in the past— that’s changed. There is a sense that we need good people in office or there are consequences. People feel the weight of what happened in the presidential election and want to do something about it.”