Michigan Democrats have nominated Rashida Tlaib, who will be the first female Muslim member of Congress, to replace former congressman John Conyers Jr.
They’ve also nominated Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, who will be the third African American woman to represent Detroit, to replace Conyers temporarily, for the remainder of his vacated term.
For the second time in a decade, a special election held the same day as a regular election has produced two different members of Congress from Michigan. No Republican is running for the 13th Congressional District, making Jones’s and Tlaib’s primary victories tantamount to victory in November. Jones will be sworn in shortly after the November election, while Tlaib will be sworn in when the new Congress convenes in January.
In 2012, a similar split occurred in the Republican-leaning 11th District, which borders the 13th. That year, voters sent a Democrat to Washington to replace Thaddeus McCotter, who had resigned, in the lame-duck session of Congress; they elected a Republican, Kerry Bentivolio, to serve in the 113th Congress. While a weak Democratic candidate was already on the ballot for the regular election, a stronger Democrat qualified for the special and won.
The scramble in the 13th District unfolded differently. After Conyers’s resignation last year, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder scheduled the race to replace him for Nov. 6, 2018 — by far the longest period any seat in the country would have to remain open.
Just four candidates filed for that special election; Jones, Tlaib, state Sen. Ian Conyers and Westland Mayor Bill Wild. But six candidates filed for the regular election; those same four, plus state Sen. Coleman Young II and former state representative Shanelle Jackson.
On Election Day, Tlaib actually got more votes in the special election (31,084) than in the regular primary (27,803). But the larger field divided the district’s majority-black electorate, with Young and Jackson combining for 17.9 percent of the vote. As the strongest of just two black candidates in the regular primary, and backed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and a number of labor unions, Jones won 37.7 percent of the vote, edging past Tlaib.
Jones, who holds the second-most-powerful political job in Detroit, must now consider whether to give it up for a few short weeks — just 18 legislative days — in Congress. (She would probably be legally prohibited from holding both offices.) As of Wednesday afternoon, her campaign had not stated how it would move forward, and a spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.