Apr 13, 2023 - Politics

What Rep. Shri Thanedar's up to in his first 100 days in Congress

Shri Thanedar walks in a march to protest the Roe v. Wade in 2022. Photo: Samuel Robinson

Shri Thanedar walks in a march to protest the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

After moving to the U.S. from India at 24 years old, U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar says he never thought he'd be representing Detroit in Congress.

  • "I'm somebody not likely to be in Congress — I came here with nothing," Thanedar tells Axios. "This is a big honor and I don't want to squander it."

Why it matters: Nearly 100 days into his first term representing Detroit and parts of Wayne County, Thanedar's social media has brought new attention to the former state representative still working to earn the respect of a district that voted for him over a crowded field of recognizable Democrats.

What he's tweeting: "This is your office, I am just here to serve," Thanedar tweeted last month. It's now pinned to the top of his profile, which also pictures him next to a photo of his family, a drawing from his grandchild, and a large image of Malcolm X.

State of play: After defeating a crowded field of candidates last year, Thanedar — who beat candidates vying to continue Detroit's 70-year streak of Black representation in Congress — has been working to connect with residents in the 13th District.

  • One way is through Twitter, where the 68-year-old has intentionally cultivated a following of Democratic Socialists(you'll find them in the replies to his posts).
  • "A lot of people don't understand him; they think he's just a rich guy," Adam Abusalah, a 22-year-old Dearborn native, Central Michigan University graduate student and Thanedar's communications director, tells Axios. "I try to showcase not so much that he's a congressman, but that he's a real person and a progressive with good ideas."

Zoom in: Thanedar's account recently got attention for a series of tweets calling Gov. Gretchen Whitmer "Big Gretch," then "Governor Whitmer," and then back to "Big Gretch."

  • He also drew laughs for tweeting a photo of Detroit's skyline with the caption: "I love the big D" — a post made by the congressman himself which has since been deleted.
  • "I did keep it up for a while because it got a lot of attention and people did see his innocent side, but once (the jokes) started getting out of hand, I made the decision to delete it," Abusalah says.
  • Thanedar also poses "questions of the week," posts chess matches, and replies to memes.

The bottom line: "Being a business owner, I'm unlike the traditional politician," Thanedar, who sits on the Small Business and Homeland Security committees, tells Axios. "Now that we have Adam on board, he does some of it, but most of the posting I do myself — it's very spontaneous for me. Sometimes what I post gets misinterpreted, but so be it."

  • "Not just during election time, but throughout my term, I feel like I owe it to my constituents to let them know who I am, what I'm doing and who I'm meeting with."
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