Jul 21, 2022 - Politics

What to know about Michigan's 12th District race

Animated illustration of three different people wearing an "I Voted" sticker.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Well-financed incumbent Rep. Rashida Tlaib is the favorite in the race for Michigan's new 12th Congressional District.

Why it matters: Money from pro-Israel interests headlines the discussion as outspoken "Squad" member Tlaib runs against Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, considered her top competitor in the Aug. 2 primary.

  • Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett and former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson are also running.

Context: The recently redrawn 12th District, described by Michigan Radio as "one of the safest" for Democrats, includes part of Detroit's west side, as well as Dearborn, Livonia and Southfield.

State of play: Winfrey is a well-known name in Detroit — but not the suburbs. She won a fifth term as clerk in November despite criticism over various election administration problems.

  • Winfrey's well-publicized outside campaign interest includes a PAC of Black and Jewish business leaders that said it would spend up to $1 million on ads helping her unseat Tlaib, per Politico.
  • Tlaib, the lone Palestinian American in Congress who is seeking a third term, actively condemns Israel for its conflict with Palestine.

By the numbers: Tlaib's $2.79 million raised since January 2021 gives her a drastic lead over Winfrey ($295,000) and Garrett ($266,00). Jackson's funding reports are not available.

The big picture: The 12th is one of just two redrawn districts that include Detroit. Considering Tlaib's popularity and Rep. Brenda Lawrence deciding not to seek re-election in the 13th race, it's possible the largest Black-majority city in the U.S. could come out of the 2022 elections without any Black representation in Congress.

What they're saying: The 12th exemplifies a "quandary" Black voters can face to "balance out need for Black representation with the desire to have effective representation, even if that person isn't Black," Greg Bowens, a local political consultant, tells Axios.

  • The recent redistricting process shows "we need to have a more serious discussion about race in the Democratic party," he says.

The other side: A Republican is not expected to win, but three GOP candidates are running for the 12th:

  • Steven Elliott, a veteran and business owner; James Hooper, a building tradesman; and Hassan Nehme, an entrepreneur, per MLive.

What's next: This is our second of several election guides ahead of the Aug. 2 primary.

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