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Rashida Tlaib wins Democratic primary in Michigan

Palestinian-American lawmaker, who supports Israel boycott movement, to face underdog Republican candidate in November

In an Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, Rashida Tlaib, left, then-Democratic candidate for the Michigan's 13th Congressional District, and Brenda Jones speak during a rally in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
In an Oct. 26, 2018, file photo, Rashida Tlaib, left, then-Democratic candidate for the Michigan's 13th Congressional District, and Brenda Jones speak during a rally in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

“Squad” member Rashida Tlaib won a challenge for her US House seat in Michigan’s primary, 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 re-election to the 13th District in and around Detroit. Her opponent in Tuesday’s primary was Detroit City Council 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.

The Squad is the informal name for a group of four women elected in the 2018 United States House of Representatives elections, made up of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Tlaib.

Tlaib, a Palestinian American, favors a binational state as an outcome of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She and Omar favor the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“Headlines said I was the most vulnerable member of the Squad,” Tlaib tweeted Wednesday. “My community responded last night and said our Squad is big. It includes all who believe we must show up for each other and prioritize people over profits. It’s here to stay, and it’s only getting bigger.”

In this July 15, 2019, file photo, US Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, right, speaks as US Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, listens during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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 once called the president an expletive 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.

Gregory Wilson, 64, who also voted at the church, cast his ballot for Jones.

“I voted for Brenda Jones simply because I’ve done a little work with her because I’m a police chaplain,” he said. “With Rashida Tlaib, I’m probably not the best-informed voter.”

Tlaib will be the overwhelming favorite in November’s general election.

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 then backed Jones this time, while Tlaib was endorsed by unions, Bernie Sanders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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