Finley: Duggan to seek property tax reduction for Detroit homeowners by going after speculators

Brenda Jones running for Congress again in challenge to Tlaib

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones has announced she intends to run for Congress again in a Democratic primary challenge to freshman U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

Jones recently filed a formal "statement of candidacy" with the Federal Election Commission for the 2020 election in what would be a rematch for Jones and Tlaib, who ran against one another in the 2018 Democratic primary.

In a video released Wednesday, Jones said she's running for reelection to Congress after serving five weeks in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Jones said her candidacy is based on hope: “Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for our children, hope for our families and hope for the hopeless.”

“When reelected as your congresswoman, my focus will be three-pronged," Jones said.

"One, bring new resources to the district. Two, uniting the district. Three focusing on issues that are important to the families and the people of the 13th Congressional District. The issues that impact us right here at home.”

Jones shot her announcement video from her home, instead of holding a press conference, she said, to "set a safety example" amid suggested social distancing.

Jones, 60, won the 2018 special election to finish out the term of former Rep. John Conyers Jr. but lost her bid to replace Conyers for a full two-year term to Tlaib by fewer than 1,000 votes — 1 percentage point. She launched a write-in campaign for the general election that year but was unsuccessful.

Tlaib, 43, has since seen her national profile skyrocket as a member of the progressive "squad" that includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and has sparred on social media with President Donald Trump. 

Denzel McCampbell, a spokesman for Tlaib's campaign, said she looks forward to "running a strong campaign and winning re-election regardless of who is on the ballot, but at this time she is 100% focused on responding to the coronavirus and getting our communities and residents the resources they need to protect human health and our local economy."

"Rep. Tlaib is hard at work pushing groundbreaking policies to make direct payments to all Americans to weather this storm, leading legislation to save state and local governments from financial collapse, and preventing utility shutoffs, evictions and foreclosures," he added. 

The 13th District of Michigan includes parts of Detroit and other communities in Wayne County, including Romulus, Inkster, Highland Park, River Rouge, Westland, Garden City and Wayne. 

Tlaib, a former state lawmaker from Detroit, raised far more money than Jones in the 2018 campaign — $1.6 million to Jones' $270,400.

This cycle, Tlaib has already topped $1.6 million and had $1.2 million in the bank on Dec. 31. 

Jones' campaign committee ended 2019 in debt by nearly $23,700. She raised $11,700 last year and had less than $2,000 on hand on Dec. 31.  

Jones said she made the decision to run again in September 2019. She's working to collect the petition signatures she needs to secure a place on the ballot — something that got harder under social distancing guidelines. 

"People want someone who has had their feet on the round here, and I’ve had my feet on the ground here the last 15 years working with the people and knowing what they want and their needs and concerns,” Jones said in an interview.

The council president took a swipe at Tlaib, saying she has "spent a lot of her energy in places other than the 13th District." 

"I will be totally focused on the 13th District, being the third poorest district in the United States," Jones said.

"Just wanting to woke and unify the district, bring the district together and focus on the issues that are important to us,” including job creation and housing.

Jones' brief term in federal office made history by breaking with more than 100 years of U.S. House precedent when she served simultaneously as a member of Congress and a local elected official. 

Her refusal to resign as president of Detroit City Council delayed her swearing in for more than three weeks until House leaders came to an agreement to seat her in late November.

The Constitution doesn't prohibit members from simultaneously holding state or local office, but the House historically took the position that "high state office is incompatible with congressional membership," as stated in the House Ethics Manual.

Under a deal reached between Democratic and Republican leaders, Jones was allowed to serve if she accepted no pay from Detroit's council and participated in no council votes while serving in Congress — conditions advised by counsel to the House Ethics Committee. 

At the time, counsel for the Ethics Committee said Jones' dual office-holding was only compatible given the "very limited time" she would be representing Michigan and given the council was to be in recess during her term in Congress.