March 1, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

She and the super PAC support her attacked Tlaib for her remarks calling for the abolition of the police, her vote against the bipartisan infrastructure bill and her refusal to explicitly endorse Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race. Going largely unsaid was why the pro-Israeli donors did it for her: Tlaib, a Palestinian American, is an advocate for a single, bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state and a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. .

Some voters, especially in parts of the district Tlaib did not previously represent, found the criticism compelling.

“I’m not saying [the Squad members] they are bad people. It’s just not for me,” said Dorothy Wright, a retired AT&T employee who lives in Southfield, who was not previously represented by Tlaib. “All of this works 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 its administration of elections in the city of Detroit. Since Election Day, the super PAC supporting her has spent under $700,000 boosting her bid – well short of the $1 million she planned to raise and spend.

Tlaib has now been dispatched with primary challenges in two consecutive cycles, extending the “Squad’s” undefeated streak against would-be Democratic challengers. In 2020, Tlaib handily beat then-Detroit City Council Speaker Brenda Jones.

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

But Tlaib’s relentless campaigning, profuse campaigning, and reputation for strong cultural services proved decisive.

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

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