Tlaib to move for run in new congressional district covering Dearborn, Wayne County

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib intends to move and run for reelection in a newly created congressional district that includes Dearborn, Southfield and part of Detroit, her campaign said Wednesday. 

The shift to a neighboring district throws open the race for the new district covering the bulk of Detroit, Hamtramck, the Grosse Pointes and downriver communities in the 2022 midterm elections, spurring what's likely to be a crowded Democratic primary. 

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib

Tlaib, a sophomore lawmaker from Detroit, announced Wednesday that she plans to run in the newly drawn 12th Congressional District following the process that shuffled political districts for members of the U.S. House. 

Tlaib noted that the new 12th District includes over 60% of the total population of her current territory, including Inkster, Westland, Garden City and Redford Charter Township.

"Overwhelmingly, I think the feeling was to continue the work I started almost four years ago with my current residents," Tlaib said in an interview. "I'm just excited to continue on with what I started in the current 13th."

Tlaib, who lives in Detroit but outside the new 12th District, said she will move into the Detroit portion of the new district. "I’m going to stay a Detroiter," she said. 

Tlaib's decision came after U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, said Tuesday she intends to retire at the end of her term and won't pursue the seat in the 12th. 

"A lot of her district was in the new 13th, and a lot of mine was in the new 12th," Tlaib said of Lawrence. "It’s like they switched us."

The new 12th District would also cover communities that Tlaib hasn't represented in Congress, including Southfield, Beverly Hills, Livonia, Dearborn and Dearborn Heights. Both Dearborn and Dearborn Heights have large Arab American communities, and Tlaib — the daughter of Palestinian immigrants — is one of the first two Muslim women elected to the U.S. House.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell currently represents Dearborn in Congress but previously said she's going to move and run in a new district anchored by Ann Arbor. 

"She’s built a great relationship with folks in western Wayne County, and she has a lot of support there," said Jonathan Kinloch, chairman of the 13th District Democratic Party, said of Tlaib.

"We love Rashida. We're gonna miss her. Rashida has always been there for us ... a huge voice. Our loss is definitely the 12th District's gain." 

Tlaib in her statement told her current constituents that "no matter if you’re in the new 12th or 13th, our work together will continue."

Tlaib said she intends to win over new voters by leading with compassion and introducing them to her neighborhood service center model, which aims to aid residents with utility shutoffs or accessing federal benefits, unemployment or foreclosures.

"They're going to see this critical focus on constituent services, and how that changes lives today, and they're going to feel that right away," she said. 

By moving to the 12th, Tlaib would avoid a primary challenge from former gubernatorial hopeful Shri Thanedar, who formally announced his campaign for the 13th District last week.

Thanedar, a chemist and millionaire, can self-fund his campaign and committed $5 million toward his effort to start. He has served a single term in Lansing as a state representative from Detroit for the 3rd District, whose boundaries fall within the new 12th Congressional District.

Thanedar in 2018 narrowly won Detroit but finished third out of three candidates in the statewide gubernatorial primary after spending almost $10 million of his own fortune on the race.

Kinloch stressed the importance of continuing to have a Black lawmaker representing Michigan in Washington after the "enormous shock" of Lawrence's decision to retire. Lawrence, who is in her fourth term, is the only African American in Michigan's congressional delegation. 

"Once again, we have hanging in the balance whether or not Michigan will have a Black representative in Congress," Kinloch said, noting the 13th District seat was just up for grabs in 2018 after the resignation of former Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit. 

Kinloch said having a Black voice for Michigan in Congress at this moment is particularly important amid Republican efforts to change voting laws around the country. 

"Detroit played a key role in the 2020 election in the determination of the presidency and received a visceral response from the Republicans in regards to our turnout and involvement in the election," Kinloch said.

"We absolutely need someone in Washington who’s going to champion the protection of the rights of Black voters and all voters."

Kinloch has heard from a few potential candidates who are weighing a run in the new 13th District, including attorney Michael Griffie and former Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr., now chief of staff at Triumph Church.

Other possible contenders include former state Sen. Ian Conyers and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, both of whom ran against Tlaib and others in the crowded 13th District Democratic primary in 2018. Kinloch also mentioned Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey and Adrian Tonon, Detroit's first 24-Hour Economy Ambassador or “night mayor.”

Former state Rep. Sherry Gay Dagnogo, who sits on the Detroit school board, announced on Facebook late Tuesday she is running for Congress, suggesting on Twitter Wednesday that she might run for the 13th.

It's unclear who else might seek the Democratic nomination in the 12th with Tlaib on the ballot. A member of the progressive Squad in Congress, she has established national name recognition. 

Names floated as potential Democratic candidates include Westland Mayor William Wild, state Sen. Jeremy Moss of Southfield, state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden of Southfield  and former state Rep. Rudy Hobbs, who is Oakland County's deputy executive.

Former state lawmaker and current Wayne County Commissioner David Knezek Jr.'s name has also been mentioned by Democrats, as well as Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun and Dearborn City Council President Mike Sareini.