KALAMAZOO — State Rep. Jon Hoadley won a nail-biter in Tuesday’s primary, securing the Democratic nomination for the 6th Congressional District and the right to face longtime Congressman Fred Upton.

Hoadley was behind his challenger, Jen Richardson, for most of the night as returns came in, until just past midnight. After a late surge from Kalamazoo County voters, Hoadley remained ahead until the race was called early Wednesday.

The Kalamazoo resident claimed 52.3 percent of the vote over Richardson’s 47.7 percent.

“It’s a big honor. We’ve got real challenges facing Southwest Michigan,” Hoadley said Wednesday. “I’m just thankful to all the voters across the district who were supporting the campaign.”

Hoadley moves on to face Upton, who is running for his 18th consecutive term. On Tuesday, Upton defeated Benton Harbor resident Elena Oelke by claiming 62 percent of the vote in the Republican primary.

The seat carries a two-year term.

Hoadley, 36, is in his third and final term as the state representative for the 60th House District, which includes Kalamazoo and portions of the city of Portage and Kalamazoo Township. He formally announced his candidacy in April 2019.

His victory comes despite Richardson winning every county other than Hoadley’s home turf in Kalamazoo County.

In Berrien County, Richardson surpassed Hoadley with 6,722 votes to his 5,004. In Van Buren, she again earned more votes, 2,902-2,594. In Cass, Richardson won 1,886-1,127.

However, it was in the district’s largest county where Hoadley won the race. Hoadley earned 20,843 votes in Kalamazoo County – about 62 percent – to Richardson’s 13,177.

Hoadley finished with 33,762 votes to 30,809 for Richardson.

“I was definitely hitting that refresh button as everyone else was,” Hoadley said. “I think I got a couple hours of sleep last night.”

The close primary was in stark contrast to the money that each campaign had raised. Richardson raised $74,500, mainly from grassroots supporters, while Hoadley raised more than $1.37 million.

Richardson, 36, began her campaign in November 2019, saying she decided to run after experiencing frustrations about the current system. The science teacher and research director at the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center regularly spoke out against established politicians in her grassroots effort. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Hoadley commended Richardson’s campaign, citing her ability to bring a lot of issues to the forefront.

Tuesday also contained an Election Day surprise for Hoadley.

In a New York Post article published online Tuesday evening, a couple of hours before polls closed, the claim was made that well before Hoadley’s election to state politics in 2014, he wrote blog posts discussing going to a gay bar to “learn about crystal meth” and describing sexual partners as “victims,” among other entries the Post described as derogatory or creepy.

Brittany Bodenheimer, communications director for Hoadley’s campaign, referred to the now-deleted blog as “bad college poetry” and “absolutely salacious.”

“Because of 150,000 deaths from COVID and a collapsing economy, Congressman Fred Upton’s chances of getting re-elected are drowning so quickly that the Republicans have mistaken bad college poetry for a life preserver,” Bodenheimer told The Herald-Palladium.

Hoadley, who is openly gay, was recently endorsed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Hoadley is the Democratic vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Democratic vice chair of the House Fiscal Agency Governing Committee and serves on the U.S Commission on Civil Rights Michigan Advisory Committee.

He is also a small business owner, as he is president and owner of Badlands Strategies, a public affairs firm.

The 6th Congressional District includes Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties and most of Allegan County.

Contact: twittkowski@TheHP.com, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski