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‘Squad’ member Rep. Rashida Tlaib wins primary in Michigan

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) speaks at Oak Valley Middle School in El Cajon.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan speaks Dec. 21 at Oak Valley Middle School in El Cajon.
(Hayne Palmour IV / San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Squad” member Rashida Tlaib won a challenge for her House seat in Michigan’s primary Tuesday in a rematch with the woman she narrowly defeated two years ago.

Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, easily secured likely reelection to the 13th District in and around Detroit. Her primary opponent was Detroit City Council President President Brenda Jones, who lost by 1 percentage point in 2018 when the primary field was larger. Jones on the same day defeated Tlaib to later fill out the remainder of John Conyers’ term.

Tlaib, 44, will face an underdog Republican candidate in November.

“I’m confident. I’m confident in the movement that we started. I’m confident that as we experience this tonight, we are going to see that our country is ready, is ready for someone like me and others that are saying, ‘Enough. Enough with corporate greed. Enough with the assault on our families,” Tlaib said in a video to supporters after the polls closed.

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The Democratic showdown in one of the country’s poorest districts featured Jones criticizing Tlaib’s confrontational style and vowing to focus on bringing home funding. Tlaib, one of four progressive Democratic congresswomen who have become known as the Squad, once called President Trump a vulgar name while vowing to impeach him. He later targeted her with racist tweets.

Tlaib, an unapologetic fighter and progressive with a national profile, noted that Trump signed into law a bill she sponsored to protect retirees’ pension benefits and that she has gotten amendments approved with bipartisan support. She also cited work creating neighborhood service centers to help residents throughout the district.

Andrew E. Bryant, 71, voted for Tlaib at New Providence Baptist Church on Detroit’s west side. He said she has been outspoken on behalf of Detroit’s working class and poor, and especially against water service shut-offs for people unable to pay their bills.

“I look at the person that I think is best qualified” and Tlaib “is a fighter,” he said.

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The race was not just about an older establishment figure challenging a young, more liberal activist but also the racial dynamics in the district. The 60-year-old Jones, like more than half of the district’s residents, is Black while Tlaib is Palestinian American.

Tlaib had a huge financial advantage over Jones, having raised more than $2 million. Jones was far outraised in 2018 but almost won. The four other candidates the backed Jones this time, while Tlaib was endorsed by unions, Bernie Sanders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.


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