A longtime city council member in Detroit and one-time, short-lived Congresswoman has reportedly become the latest person to declare his or her candidacy against a member of the group of freshmen U.S. Representatives of color popularly known as “The Squad.” Brenda Jones, a Black woman Democrat and president of the Detroit City Council, has reportedly filed paperwork that means she intends to run for the seat in Congress that she lost to current Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib in 2018.
Jones, who has been on the Detroit city council since 2005, had not made any formal announcement as of late Sunday afternoon. Her candidacy would set up a rematch against Tlaib, whom she beat in a special election to replace Rep. John Conyers in 2018 two months before barely losing to the current congresswomen in the mid-term elections that same year.
The report of Jones’ intentions came as two other popular members of “The Squad” were also facing challengers for their respective seats in Congress. But, perhaps even more importantly, Jones’ candidacy would be the most serious threat to “The Squad,” which is comprised of New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley along with Tlaib.
Jones lost to Tlaib by about 1 percent of the vote, a difference of about 900 ballots, according to the Detroit Free Press. Fundraising, or a lack thereof for Jones, proved to be the difference-maker in that close contest. But with Tlaib’s rising profile — she has proposed a popular stimulus plan as the House and Senate work on a deal to bail out companies and offer financial help to citizens during the coronavirus crisis — the freshman Congresswoman whose presidential endorsement was recently welcomed by Bernie Sanders may still have the edge.
With that said, one of the major differences this time around could be the support from Michigan’s Black voters.
According to an opinion piece that ran in Deadline Detroit, an independent news organization, Tlaib has a “black problem.” Greg Bowens wrote last year that “Some blacks in her district may not relate to the Palestinian struggle,” a reference to Tlaib’s heritage as one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.
Conyers’ nephew, Ian Conyers, a Michigan State Senator who also ran against Tlaib in 2018, tweeted on Sunday his endorsement of Jones’ candidacy in what could be a hint of who other Black voters in Michigan choose to support in the state’s Democratic primary, which is scheduled to be held Aug. 4.
“Tlaib needs to make that clearer that it’s no stretch to believe that her battle for Palestinian rights is something her black constituents should relate to — the fight for the underdog, a population facing discrimination and a lack of economic opportunities — not to mention, that there are black Palestinians (also called Afro-Palestinians), Bowens wrote. “She needs to make it clear that she’s fighting for an international cause blacks should care about.”
It’s unclear whether that message has been sent or received, but the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a chance for Tlaib to hammer home that point with her proposed stimulus package that “would immediately provide a U.S. Debit Card pre-loaded with $2000 to every person in America” and have each of them “be recharged with $1,000 monthly until one year after the end of the Coronavirus crisis.”
A plan like that would most certainly endear Tlaib to many of the state’s voters, let alone citizens around the rest of the country, and could be tough for Jones to compete with. Tlaib’s alignment with Sanders may not helpful for her re-election, seeing as a disproportionate number of Black voters in Michigan support former vice president Joe Biden to be the Democratic nominee in the 2020 general election.
Jones’ challenge against Tlaib would likely be the most contentious by far for any member of “The Squad.” Eight Republicans and five Democrats have filed to run against Ocasio-Cortez, better known by her AOC nickname. But the Guardian reported that “enthusiasm among supporters for Ocasio-Cortez is unwavering” in her district. In Minnesota, Omar is also facing multiple challengers. But, like the rest of her “Squad” members, her campaign is well-funded and not expected to be at risk of a loss. No one has announced a campaign to challenge Pressley.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misidentified the candidate who Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib has endorsed for president. The text has been updated to reflect this correction.