DETROIT – On August 7, voters in the 13th Congressional District made history by choosing former State Rep. Rashida Tlaib in the Democratic Primary. This November, Tlaib will be the first Arab American Muslim woman elected to Congress – she’ll appear on the general election ballot with no opposition from a Republican candidate and will take office in January.
Tlaib celebrated the victory with campaign volunteers, family and supporters at a watch party in Detroit. She waited until about 2:45 a.m. to be certain she’d won before she declared victory.
“Our victory― in a crowded primary― demonstrates that the people of Michigan’s 13th District put the needs of everyday people over corporate profits,” Tlaib wrote in an email to her supporters after the victory. “This is only the beginning. Our victory today is inspiring young girls, young people of all religious backgrounds and more to think of themselves as leaders.”
Tlaib won the district with 27,803 votes, while Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones came in second place with 26,916 votes.
Six people ran to replace former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Detroit), who resigned last December. Conyers resigned after former employees brought multiple allegations of sexual assault against him.
Because Conyers left the seat early a special election was required to fill the remainder of his term, which ends in December. The August 7 primary included this special election to determine who would serve out Conyers’ term.
Jones won the special election, earning 32,727 votes, while Tlaib came in second with 31,084 votes. Jones will serve out the remaining months of Conyers’ tenure, while Tlaib will serve the full two-year term beginning in January.
“All the ugliness and the hatred that you hear out there it’s not who we are,” Tlaib told the crowd before declaring her victory. “It really isn’t as a country, I promise you we’ve been to the doors. Not even one person asked me about my faith.”
She added that voters want someone who cares about their quality of life.
Tlaib previously made history in 2008 when she was elected as a state representative, becoming the first Muslim woman in the Michigan legislature.
Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and the eldest of 14 children, was born and raised in Detroit. She has two sons of her own.
She ran on a platform of progressive politics that included overturning Citizens United, Restoring the Voting Rights Act and support for Medicare for all.
As a state representative and, most recently, as a public interest lawyer at the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, she has focused on human rights advocacy. She has developed a reputation as an organizer who fights for people rather than corporations.
Tlaib has taken on the Koch Brothers, helped remove toxic “pet coke” from Detroit’s riverfront and secured millions of dollars for free health clinics, among other accomplishments.
“I push back on anybody that tells my residents ‘no,’” she said moments before declaring victory. “Sometimes that means blocking trucks and sometimes that means jumping over piles and getting samples of coke tested. But that’s what we all need right now; we can’t have somebody going down to Washington anymore that wavers.”
Tlaib has a history as a champion for environmental justice and public health and safety. She obtained a Cancer Cluster Study requirement for an area suffering extreme industrial pollution in Southwest Detroit and passed bills cracking down on scrap metal theft and mortgage fraud in Detroit, Wayne County and across Michigan. She also led the national Take On Hate civil rights campaign to fight bigotry and promote understanding.
“You have given me the opportunity of a lifetime, to serve my community and the country as the next member of Congress from Michigan’s 13th District,” she wrote to supporters in an email. “Without a Republican on the ballot in November, we’re almost certainly going to Washington, D.C. to fight for Medicare-for-all, a $15 minimum wage, sustainable environmental policies, funding for public schools, tuition-free college, equal rights, fair immigration reform and so much more.”
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