Tlaib wins U.S. House seat, becomes among first Muslim-American women elected

Brenda Jones, left, and Rashida Tlaib

Former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib will be among the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress after winning the seat of former Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, on Tuesday.

The Palestinian-American and Trump critic won the race with 84.8 percent of the vote in the U.S. House District 13 race, according to the Associated Press. Unofficial results showed 89 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday. 

No Republican was on the ballot in the 13th District. Green Party candidate Etta Wilcoxon of Detroit trailed with 4 percent, and Working Class Party hopeful Sam Johnson of Detroit had 11.2 percent.

Wayne County reported 1,540 write-in votes as of 10 p.m. but those early results were not broken down by candidate. The write-in tally undoubtedly included votes for Brenda Jones, the Detroit City Council president, who lost the primary to Tlaib by 1 percentage point, or 900 votes.

Tlaib, 42, an attorney and community organizer, led fundraising in the race. Her platform included addressing Detroiters' concerns about water shutoffs, high car insurance rates, leaky fire hydrants and safer neighborhood intersections. 

Relatives of Tlaib were cheering in the Michigan Democrat’s ancestral West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Foqa.

Rashida Tlaib’s uncle, Bassam Tlaib, said Wednesday that “the family, the village and the region are all proud” of her historic victory.

He saidhis 42-year-old niece plans to wear traditional Palestinian dress and have a Quran during her swearing-in ceremony. He expects her to “serve the Palestinian cause” in her new role.

Rashida Tlaib was born in the United States to Palestinian parents. Her mother is originally from the West Bank.

Tlaib ran unopposed in her Michigan district. She and Somali-American Ilhan Omar of Minnesota will be first two female Muslim members of Congress.

Steven Cooley, 54, a retired firefighter from Romulus, said he voted for Tlaib in part because, while in the state Legislature, she fought the storage of piles of the industrial coke ash on the shores of the Detroit River near his firehouse. 

"I see positive things from her," Cooley said. "She's a fighting force for the people."

Jones, 59, angered some Democrats by declaring her last-minute, long shot maneuver in an attempt to upset Tlaib but cited concerns about the "integrity" of the primary election.

Jones spent the day visiting polls to spread the word about the write-in, said Thea White, a campaign volunteer for Jones.

“It is taking that extra effort to educate. We want to make sure that everyone’s vote counts," White said. 

The chair of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party, Jonathan Kinloch, has called Jones' write-in campaign a "major distraction" from helping other Democrats on the ticket get elected.

Tamara Kirkland, 45, of Detroit said the decision was difficult, but she opted to write-in Jones' name.

Jones "has a pretty good record. She’s been around a while, and she pretty much sees through when she’s determined to do something," Kirkland said. "She’s made headway in the city.”

Kirkland, an auto worker, said she was impressed by a forum that Jones held on human trafficking in partnership with law enforcement.

“She gained my respect doing that,” Kirkland said. “It was very helpful.”

In the race to finish out Conyers' unexpired term in office, Jones defeated two minor party candidates with 93 percent of the vote. The Associated Press projected Jones would win. 

US Taxpayers hopeful Marc Joseph Sosnowski of Dearborn Heights trailed with 4 percent, and Wilcoxon had 3 percent.

Jones would temporarily represent the district for an estimated seven weeks, from mid-November through Jan. 2.

She has not said whether she intends to resign her elected city post before taking office in Washington, but House leadership says there's no precedent for allowing a member of Congress to also hold local elected office.  

The seat in the 13th District, which includes parts of Detroit and Wayne County, has been vacant for more than 11 months since Conyers resigned in December. 

Conyers stepped down after 53 years in Congress amid allegations that he sexually harassed female aides.

Jonathan Oosting, Christine Ferretti and the Associated Press contributed