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Tlaib criticizes Jones for not living in congressional district

Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is going after her primary challenger, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, for not living in the district she would represent in Congress. 

"At least I live in the 13th Congressional District unlike my opponent," Tlaib tweeted Monday.

Jones instead lives in the 14th District, which is represented by U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield. The issue was raised by opponents of Jones when she ran for the 13th District seat in 2018 and lost to Tlaib, 43, a former state lawmaker.

Jones' campaign reiterated Monday what it said in response to Tlaib's same barb in 2018. Jones, 60, isn't required to live in the district, which includes parts of Detroit and other communities in Wayne County, including Romulus, Inkster, Highland Park, River Rouge, Westland, Garden City and Wayne. U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, also lived in the 14th District and didn't live in the district that he represented for decades before resigning in December 2017.

Screenshots of Brenda Jones and Coleman A. Young II during a Facebook Live virtual town hall.

The qualifications for candidates for the U.S. House in Michigan are to be 25 years old, a U.S. citizen for seven years and to live in the state they represent.

Jones' campaign has also stressed that “equally as important” as Jones’ qualifying to run for the seat is that she has represented 270 Detroit precincts within the 13th District as a city council member for years.

“Council President Jones looks forward to the opportunity to continue to represent the citizens in Detroit’s 13th Congressional District, as well as the residents living in the other 11 communities which comprise the 13th Congressional District,” spokeswoman Acquanetta Pierce Glass told The Detroit News in 2018. 

A rematch between Tlaib and Jones in the Democratic primary is set for Aug. 4. 

Jones, 60, won the 2018 special election to finish out Conyers' term after he left but lost her bid for the full two-year term to Tlaib by fewer than 1,000 votes — 1 percentage point.

Jones launched a write-in campaign for the general election that year but was unsuccessful. She went on to serve a brief five weeks in the U.S. House.

Tlaib spokesman Denzel McCampbell said her Monday statement about Jones living outside the district was not in response to anything in particular, though he said it was "unfortunate the Jones campaign has tried to deceive voters by distorting Rep. Tlaib's record." 

He was referring to Jones' surrogates arguing that Tlaib hasn't focused enough on her district and to a "deceiving, false" mailer sent by a super PAC about her record. 

"Rep. Tlaib continues to work hard and deliver for her neighbors in the 13th Congressional District," McCampbell said.

"From providing services today with four neighborhood service centers, to meaningful legislation in D.C., Rep. Tlaib has a track record of getting things done and receipts to back it up." 

As in 2018, Tlaib has significantly raise more money than Jones — $2.87 million for Tlaib through June 30 to Jones' $135,250, according to disclosure reports.

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, who tested positive for COVID-19, along with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, speak on Detroiters and the coronavirus at a press conference at Shed 5 in Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan on April 17, 2020.

Jones has been endorsed by their former rivals in the 2018 primary, former state Sens. Coleman Young II and Ian Conyers, Westland Mayor Bill Wild, and former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson. 

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 council president delayed her swearing in for more than three weeks until House leaders came to an agreement to seat her in late November 2018.

mburke@detroitnews.com