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‘Squad’ member Tlaib leads in Michigan primary

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — “Squad” member Rashida Tlaib was trying to fend off a serious challenge for her House seat in Michigan’s primary on Tuesday, in a rematch with the woman she narrowly defeated two years ago.

Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, was seeking reelection in the 13th District in and around Detroit. Her sole opponent is 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 fill out the remainder of John Conyers’ term.

Tlaib, 44, was leading in early returns. But a large number of votes had still not been counted early Wednesday and it was not clear when the result would be known.

“I’m confident. I’m confident in the movement that we started. I’m confident that as we experience this tonight, we are going to see that our country is ready, is ready for someone like me and others that are saying, ‘Enough. Enough with corporate greed. Enough with the assault on our families,” Tlaib said in a video to supporters after the polls closed.

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.”

The primary winner 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 she almost won. The four other candidates backed Jones, while Tlaib was endorsed by unions, Bernie Sanders and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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Associated Press writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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