Progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib Wins Michigan Democratic Primary

Tlaib defeated three challengers, all of them more moderate than her.
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Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) speaks at a concert sponsored by LGBT Detroit in July.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) speaks at a concert sponsored by LGBT Detroit in July.
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) won her primary Tuesday, disappointing the many centrist Democrats and pro-Israel donors who once again sought to unseat her.

Tlaib, a member of the ultra-progressive “Squad” in the U.S. House, defeated Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett.

Michigan’s redrawn 12th Congressional District, which encompasses some of Detroit’s west side and suburbs to the north and west, is heavily Democratic. Tlaib’s victory in the primary all but assures her a third term in Congress.

“I am not surprised,” said Dr. Jimmy Womack, a Detroit pastor and former state representative who lives in a neighboring district. “She was the candidate to beat.”

Winfrey, who enjoyed the support of a super PAC funded in large part by a pro-Israel hedge fund manager, was Tlaib’s most formidable challenger.

She and the super PAC supporting her attacked Tlaib for remarks calling for the abolition of police, her vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill and her refusal to explicitly endorse Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential race. Left mostly unstated was the reason pro-Israel donors have it out for her: Tlaib, a Palestinian American, is an advocate for a single, binational Israeli-Palestinian state and a proponent of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Some voters, especially in parts of the district that Tlaib did not previously represent, found the criticism of Tlaib’s domestic policy record compelling.

“I’m not saying [the Squad members] are bad people. They’re just not for me,” said Dorothy Wright, a retired AT&T employee living in Southfield, which Tlaib did not previously represent. “All of that working against the Democratic Party ― if you don’t want to be a Democrat, then go somewhere else.”

But Winfrey failed to clear the field of additional challengers and faced criticism of her management of elections in the city of Detroit. As of Election Day, the super PAC backing her spent under $700,000 boosting her bid ― well shy of the $1 million it planned to raise and spend.

Tlaib has now dispatched with primary challenges in two consecutive cycles, cementing the “Squad” members’ undefeated streak against would-be Democratic rivals. In 2020, Tlaib handily defeated then-Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones.

Womack, a retired physician and former constituent of Tlaib’s, said that this time around, Rep. Brenda Lawrence’s retirement and the accompanying prospect of Detroit losing its last Black member of Congress created an opening for a challenger to unseat Tlaib.

But Tlaib’s relentless campaigning, ample campaign war chest and reputation for strong constituent services proved decisive.

“There was an appetite for someone else,” Womack said. “But Rashida worked hard. She has a strong presence in southeast Michigan.”

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