Michigan Democrat set to become first Muslim Congresswoman

Former Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib won the Democratic primary and will run unopposed in the general election, defeating five other candidates in her heavily Democratic district. Two other House seats in Michigan will be decided come November. 

Al Goldis/AP/File
Former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib stands outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Nov. 6, 2008. On Aug 7, 2018, Ms. Tlaib won the Democratic nomination to run unopposed for a Michigan House seat, setting her up to be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.

Former Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib has won the Democratic nomination to run unopposed for the House seat long held by former Rep. John Conyers, setting her up to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.

No Republicans or third-party candidates ran in Tuesday's District 13 primary race, meaning Ms. Tlaib is set to win the seat in November's election and begin serving a full two-year term in January. The special primary race to serve the last two months of Representative Conyers's term was still too close to call as of early Wednesday morning, with Tlaib and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones neck and neck. The winner of that race will also run unopposed in November's election.

Tlaib served in the Michigan House from 2009 until 2014. She defeated five other candidates to win the nomination to run for a full term representing the heavily Democratic district, which covers much of Detroit and some of its suburbs.

The 89-year-old Conyers was first elected to the House in 1964. He stepped down in December citing health reasons, though several former female staffers had accused him of sexual harassment.

"This is a huge victory for the Arab and Muslim American communities – it's also a huge victory for the city of Detroit," said Sally Howell, director of the Center for Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. "Rashida Tlaib brings forward the legacy of John Conyers in terms of the groundbreaking role he played in Congress and his commitment to civil rights."

Conyers's seat was among three open House seats in Michigan heading into the primary, including another that the Democrats expect to keep and a Republican-held seat they hope to flip in their push to take control of the chamber.

In addition to Tlaib and Ms. Jones, Conyers's great-nephew, state Sen. Ian Conyers, competed in the special election. Joining them in the race for the full two-year term were former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson and current state Sen. Coleman Young, the son of the late Coleman A. Young, who was elected mayor in 1973 and held the position for 20 years.

Three Democrats were seeking the 9th District seat following the retirement of longtime Rep. Sander Levin, a Democrat who served 18 House terms and is the brother of retired-Democratic Sen. Carl Levin. Among them was Sander Levin's son, Andy Levin, who has never held elected office but who served as director of the state's Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth department from 2010-2011.

The other Democrats seeking the seat, which represents parts of Oakland and Macomb counties in southeastern Michigan, were Ellen Lipton and Martin Brook. Ms. Lipton is a patent attorney who served in the Michigan House from 2009-2014. Mr. Brook served on the Bloomfield Hills School Board from 2005-2010.

The winner will face Republican Candius Stearns and the Green Party's John McDermott in November.

Democrats are hoping to flip the traditionally GOP-leaning 11th House District with the retirement of Republican Rep. David Trott. Five Democrats and five Republicans were vying for the seat, which represents Detroit's affluent northwest suburbs. In 2016, President Trump barely won the district, which has been getting more racially and ethnically diverse.

Democrats facing off in the primary included former US Auto Task Force chief of staff Haley Stevens, former Department of Homeland Security official Fayrouz Saad, entrepreneur Suneel Gupta, state Rep. Tim Greimel, and Nancy Skinner.

The GOP primary featured businesswoman and 2016 Trump Michigan campaign co-chair Lena Epstein, former state Rep. Rocky Raczkowski, former US Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, Klint Kesto, and Mike Kowall.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

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