Former Michigan state Representative Rashida Tlaib is set to become the first ever Muslim woman in Congress after she defeated five other candidates in the Democratic primary for the vacated seat of former Representative John Conyers in the state’s 13th District. No Republicans or independents are running for the seat, meaning that Tlaib is guaranteed a victory in the coming November election. Conyers, 89, retired earlier this year amid allegations that he sexually harassed his staffers.
A 42-year-old Palestinian-American, Tlaib has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, denouncing him in particular over his anti-Muslim rhetoric and travel ban. In her victory speech, she thanked her mom, who she said hailed “from a small village in the West Bank,” and the rest of her family for supporting her from Palestine. In order to win her remarkable primary victory, she had to overcome a stacked field that included Conyers’ great-nephew, state Sen. Ian Conyers, as well as former Representative Shanelle Jackson and current state Sen. Coleman Young — the son of the late Coleman A. Young, who served as mayor of Detroit for 20 years. Tlaib’s platform has called for an overturning of Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court decision that paved the way for unlimited corporate donations to political campaigns, and for a raising of the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
In a victory speech that was delivered in the wee hours of the morning, Tlaib told her supporters, “I will fight back against every racist and oppressive structure that needs to be dismantled.” The speech was emotional and reportedly left many who were there to witness it in tears. “You deserve better than what we have today with our president,” Tlaib, the youngest of her parents 14 children, according to The New York Times, declared. At one point, her mother wrapped her in the Palestinian flag.
Speaking to CBSN earlier this year, Tlaib said that Trump’s election had inspired her and many other women to run for office to oppose him and his policies.
“In some ways Trump being elected president of the United States was kind of like the bat signal for many women across the country, not just Muslim women but women from all backgrounds,” she explained. “It was a call to say we have to act and that’s why so many women are running for office.”
Tlaib’s victory was celebrated by another upstart progressive, who pulled off her own big win earlier this summer. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posed for a photo with Tlaib and congratulated her on her victory in a post on Twitter early Wednesday morning.
We had some major Progressive wins last night:
✅ @RashidaTlaib won!
✅ @JamesThompsonKS won & made R+20 district R+4
✅ @Bell4STL won, defeated 27-yr incumbent to replace Ferguson DA
✅ Missouri voted down right-to-work by a 2-1 margin pic.twitter.com/nLq7sxATnx
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 8, 2018
For more on Tlaib’s rise, watch the video below.