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Former Auto Designer Elected to Michigan Senate

"Build that wall" chant by middle schoolers pushed her into politics.

by on Nov.08, 2018

Former auto designer Mallory McMorrow is now Michigan state senator-elect Mallory McMorrow.

In a first, a car designer is going to the Michigan State Senate in Michigan come January.

“Everybody thinks I’m a lawyer,” said Mallory McMorrow, but her experience as an automotive designer proved useful in striking up conversation as she campaigned across her state Senate District that includes a large portion of suburban Oakland County, just north of Detroit, against a seemingly entrenched incumbent whose father had also served in Congress for 16 years.


McMorrow studied industrial and car design at Notre Dame University, and in 2007 she won a design contest that led to a six-month internship while working on high profile projects such as a concept Mazda3. However, she admits, somewhat wistfully, her stint at Mazda was cut short by the Great Recession.  

But she caught on as a designer with Mattel working on Hot Wheels and winning a U.S. Patent. She moved on to work in film and advertising in both Los Angeles and New York, moving to Michigan after she married a General Motors public relations executive.

(Ford gets into the eScooter business with Spin acquisition. Click Here for the story.)

As her husband updated her on her vote totals as she watched election returns with friends and supporters, McMorrow said she hopes to bring the skills she learned as a product designer to her legislative duties.

“You test and analyze. I think that’s desperately needed in politics where legislation,” said McMorrow, who was making first run for public office.

McMorrow was simply hoping to help newly elected Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer with her campaign when it was suggested she herself run for office.

“Generally, it’s nothing I ever thought I’d do,” said McMorrow, who was running her own design and consulting business which she put on hold after taking an interest in politics.

“When I saw, a few days after the election in 2016, there was a video that went viral on line of students chanting, ‘build that Wall’ at another student and it was from Royal Oak Middle School which is where I had voted a few days before — something kind broke in me. I realized this is something that wasn’t happening at the White House. These were kids.”

The epiphany moved her towards activism as she participated in the Women’s March in Detroit and moved on to a group called Emerge Michigan, which was established to train women to run for public office. “I thought I might get involved in Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign,” McMorrow said.

Whitmer is now Michigan’s governor-elect, But McMorrow proved to be such an adept student that she was soon recruited by Democratic Party talent scouts, who told her that her strong business credentials and background in the automotive industry could make her potentially strong candidate. Joyceln Benson, Michigan’s new Secretary of State, who served as a political mentor, encouraged her to run.

(Click Here for more about Robyn Denholm taking over as chairman of Tesla.)

However, she was also cautioned that she could also wind up getting “slaughtered” in a race against an experienced incumbent with name recognition.

During the past two decades, Oakland County, once regarded as a Republican bastion has begun to lean Democratic in national and statewide elections and is becoming a fertile hunting ground for young Democratic candidates. On Election Day, Oakland County’s voters helped lift Whitmer and the other Democratic candidates to victory.

McMorrow was part of a wave of women who successfully ran for office in Michigan.

Bridge Magazine, noted for the first time in Michigan history, the offices of governor, Michigan Department of Attorney General and Michigan Secretary of State’s Office will be filled at the same time by women. “This election swept in a new era in Michigan,” the magazine said.

At the same time, two women running as Democrats also flipped two Republican-held seats in Congress, making Michigan one of the most significant bright spot for the Democratic Party on election night.

During her year and a half campaign for office, McMorrow, who won her race 73,138 to 67,798, said she had become close to the other women who had run for office in Michigan as Democrats. “We all have different backgrounds,” he said.

Having lived through the drought in California and Hurricane Sandy when she lived on the opposite coast, McMorrow said as a state senator she wants to do all she can to protect Michigan’s water resources, which are growing more and more valuable as the climate changes.

(To see the latest about more FCA, UAW sentencing in bribery case, Click Here.)

She also wants to work at making Michigan the center of autonomous vehicle industry. “It shouldn’t be in Silicon Valley,” said McMorrow, who also added she wanted to encourage more entrepreneurs and young people to move to Michigan.

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