Tlaib accused of seeking 'rock star' status, ignoring constituents in tough primary challenge

The race is yet another battle between the progressive wing and the establishment

A high-profile member of "The Squad," Rep. Rashida Tlaib, is facing a tough primary challenge from the center on Tuesday, in yet another battle between the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and the establishment.

Running against Tlaib, D-Mich., is Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, who has a history of intra-party battles with the freshman congresswoman, including in the 2018 primary for the same seat that Tlaib won.

But now it's just Jones and Tlaib going head to head. And despite Tlaib's massive fundraising advantage, Jones is a popular Democrat with deep connections in the Detroit political establishment. Jones is running on a platform of focusing on Detroit and the surrounding district, accusing Tlaib of being more concerned with superstardom than her constituents.

Voters will decide the contentious primary between Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and her primary challenger Brenda Jones Tuesday.

Voters will decide the contentious primary between Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and her primary challenger Brenda Jones Tuesday. ((AP))

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"As Michigan’s 13th Congressional District Representative, Tlaib has worked hard to become an international rock star," Jones tweeted in late July. "Representative Tlaib has a huge war chest of nearly $2 million. The money in Rashida Tlaib’s war chest is mostly from people around the world."

She added: "This means Tlaib is beholding (sic) to her money people, & not focused on the citizens of the 13th Congressional District."

Jones also previously knocked Tlaib for calling Trump a "m-----f-----" and booing Hillary Clinton at a Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign event. Jones told the New York Times that she's been contacted by people in her district saying if she were in office, she would be "more professional than this."

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But as a much better funded, yet still unsuccessful, primary challenge of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., by former CNBC journalist Michelle Caruso-Cabrera showed, the progressive "Squad" members are hard to unseat. And Tlaib has touted her progressive credentials, amplifying endorsements from the Detroit Democratic Socialists of America, Center for Popular Democracy, the EPA workers union and other progressive groups. She's also backed by Sanders, I-Vt.

And like Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib has been a prolific fundraiser. She had more than $900,000 cash on hand as of mid-July, per FEC records, whereas Jones had just over $21,000. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also endorsed Tlaib last week.

Meanwhile, Tlaib, after initially declining to endorse presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden citing her primary race, later said that "I support Vice President Biden defeating Donald Trump in November and I am going to do everything I can do ensure that Biden wins in Michigan."

Nevertheless, Jones is running on the trust she's built up in her years as a politician in Detroit, posting an ad on Twitter Friday telling constituents they need an experienced lawmaker like her to get them the resources they need during the pandemic.

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"You need someone who will focus on your needs and will work with others to build coalitions," Jones said. "You need someone who will work to strengthen education for our children, and provide the best health care action -- someone to unite our district... someone who will work to improve the district's economy."

Meanwhile, the ad pinned on Tlaib's Twitter account addresses the congresswoman's fight for progressive priorities.

"We are frontline communities that always fight back against corporate greed, structural racism and bullies who try to hold us back. This is where movements are born," Tlaib said. "We never back down, especially from those who tell us we don't deserve better. We believe that clean air and clean water are human rights, and we believe in quality education."