Freshman Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has prevailed against a Democratic primary challenge from Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, CNN projected Wednesday morning.
In Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, Tlaib faced a rematch in Tuesday night’s Democratic primary against Jones, who beat her once before to serve out the remainder of former Rep. John Conyers’ term, but lost to Tlaib in the full-term election for the seat in the heavily Democratic district.
As a member of the so-called progressive “Squad,” Tlaib, who made history in 2018 along with Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar as the first two Muslim women ever to serve in Congress, has a number of built-in advantages as she runs for reelection, including high name recognition, the ability to raise significant amounts of money and a devoted national following. At the same time, however, Tlaib has faced controversy over some outside-the-mainstream political positions and at times she has faced criticism, including from Democrats, over statements related to Israel.
“I feel I have a really good chance of actually winning and returning back to my seat to represent the people of the 13th congressional district,” Jones told CNN in an interview in June. Jones describes herself as a centrist Democrat, saying “I don’t consider myself to be far to the left. I don’t consider myself far to the right.”
In a 2018 special election after Conyers resigned, Jones won against Tlaib in a four-candidate Democratic primary and went on to win the seat for the remainder of the term.
Tlaib, however, narrowly won out against Jones in a six-candidate Democratic primary held at the same time to determine who would serve out the next full term for the congressional district. Jones lost by fewer than 1,000 votes in the race.
Jones held the seat for only five weeks, but prominently emphasizes her tenure on Capitol Hill with messages on her campaign website calling on voters to “Return Brenda Jones to Congress.”
Tlaib has had a significant fundraising advantage in the race, however. FEC data shows that Jones had raised roughly $165,000 as of July 15 while Tlaib had raised more than $3 million by the same date.
“Money helps in an election, but money doesn’t win an election,” Jones said, arguing that she has deep ties to the district and the community. “The people of the 13th Congressional District know me, they know my work.”
Tlaib told CNN in April that her focus is on “protecting my constituents and my residents” during the coronavirus pandemic when asked for reaction to Jones getting into the race. The congresswoman added that her campaign had been working to deliver aid to the community in the midst of the crisis.
“People can say whatever they want, but I’m telling my supporters, donors, nationally and everywhere, you can support the work I’m doing by supporting front-line organizations that are providing for many of my neighbors that need the help the most right now,” Tlaib said.
Denzel McCampbell, a spokesperson for the campaign, told CNN in a statement in June that “During Rep. Tlaib’s first term, she has remained laser focused on delivering exceptional constituent services, while advocating for bold, transformative legislation that will provide equity, justice, and opportunity to everyone in her district.”
“During the pandemic, Rep. Tlaib has helped residents obtain PPE and access needed unemployment benefits, and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for local service organizations,” McCampbell said, adding that “Rep. Tlaib is rooted in the community and has not stopped working for residents.”
Tlaib isn’t the only member of the Squad to face a primary challenge. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated former longtime CNBC correspondent and anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera in a June Democratic primary election for New York’s 14th Congressional District.
In Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, Omar is facing challenges from several Democrats, though none with a major national profile, in a primary on August 11.
Amid those challenges, the squad has come together to support one another.
Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts recently announced the formation of a joint fundraising committee called the “Squad Victory Fund,” which will be able to raise money to support the reelection campaigns for the four congresswomen as well as their political action committees known as leadership PACs.