Detroit — Metro Detroit congressional candidates dodged raindrops as they sought last-minute votes over the weekend before Tuesday’s primary election.
One of the hottest contests pits Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones against U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit in a Democratic primary rematch. In 2018, Jones won the right to serve out the last few weeks of the term of former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., but Tlaib won a full two-year term.
The Palestinian-American lawmaker joined protesters Saturday in denouncing the deployment of federal agents to Detroit by President Donald Trump’s orders to combat rising crime.
Under an expansion of a Trump administration “law-and-order” initiative, dozens of federal officers were sent to Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee and four other states for Operation Relentless Pursuit, a program rolled out in Detroit last winter by U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
The effort is committing $71 million toward battling drug trafficking, street gangs and other violent crime in areas including Detroit, which has the highest rate per capita in the country. Authorities insisted Thursday agents here won’t get involved in protests, as they have in other cities.
“Demand to push back,” Tlaib said Saturday. “Stick your necks out and say, I’m tired of my immigrant neighbors getting deported, I’m tired of you all not caring about poverty among children and families, I’m tired of you all not understanding that people can’t afford water, of not doing anything about our closed schools, I’m tired of all of these broken systems, that’s why we’re out here marching.
“Yes, we need to stop police brutality, but it’s so much more than that,” she said.
Tlaib also spoke about the memory of the late civil rights icon, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, and told demonstrators to keep the ongoing social justice movement going and to stay focused.
“He (Lewis) spoke up about things that people didn’t want to hear about,” she said. “You continue to do this for our kids because it will lead to meaningful action… and to all the federal agents, you messed with the wrong district.”
Jones, 60, has accused Tlaib of chasing celebrity instead of policy reforms in Washington and spending energy “other places than the 13th District,” while 44-year-old Tlaib has criticized the City Council president for water shut-offs and the use of controversial facial recognition software by the police on her watch.
The 13th Congressional District represents parts of Detroit as well as Wayne County communities including Highland Park, Redford Township, Inkster, River Rouge, Ecorse, Westland and Garden City.
Federal agencies are using taxpayer dollars to infringe on U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights, Tlaib told protesters on Saturday.
“Don’t let the secret police and the troops distract you,” the lawmaker said. “They’re tired of it because you’re requiring them work, why? You don’t want murals and symbols anymore, you want more than that.”
A Jones campaign spokeswoman declined to say how or where the City Council president would be campaigning over the weekend. After contracting and surviving the coronavirus, Jones has conducted virtual campaign events, including one where she was endorsed by former Detroit state Sens. Coleman Young II and Ian Conyers.
On Saturday, Tlaib joined a crowd of nearly 200 met at the Rosa Parks Federal Building, the Detroit headquarters of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. They stood out in the rain and condemned the ongoing deportations amid the coronavirus pandemic and held signs such as “No DHS secret police” and chanted “No justice, no peace.”
Detroit U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider previously said the federal agents are justified, adding that crime is “out of control.” Homicides in Detroit are up 31% and shootings 53% in recent months, Schneider has said.
Bruce Township businesswoman Lisa McClain was undeterred by the rain Sunday as she held meet-and-greets with voters and trekked door-to-door in an effort to “meet as many voters as I possibly can.” She is running in the three-candidate Republican primary for the 10th Congressional District, which includes a portion of northern Macomb County and the Thumb.
“The only good thing is more people are home when it’s raining,” McClain said Sunday.
In the remaining time before the primary, the businesswoman said she hoped to promote her recent endorsement by former President Donald Trump senior adviser Corey Lewandowski and “clear up any misconceptions” that have cropped up during a sometimes combative primary race between McClain and state Rep. Shane Hernandez of Port Huron.
“Every county and every voting district in the region is critical,” McClain said.
The 10th Congressional District includes part of northern Macomb County and counties in Michigan’s Thumb area and is represented by U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, the Dryden Republican who is retiring from Congress at year’s end.
Doug “Odie” Slocum, a former commander at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County, also is running in the GOP primary. Democrats Kimberly Bizon of Lexington and Kelly Noland of Chesterfield are running in the Democratic primary of the solid Republican district.
Hernandez, for his part, was holding meet-and-greet events with voters through the weekend. Besides events on Harsens Island and in Algonac, the Port Huron Republican helped gather signatures for Unlock Michigan, a petition drive aiming to scale back the governor’s emergency powers.
“The work has been done,” Hernandez said Sunday. “You won’t win or lose a race right now. It’s a good time to catch up with the family and relax a little bit.”
Hernandez plans to stay active in the remaining hours through digital messaging and social media ads in an effort to sway undecided voters.
“You always have to have the mentality that you’re down,” Hernandez said. “You never treat a race like you’re winning.”
Mitchell has endorsed the House Appropriations Committee chairman. The Slocum campaign couldn’t be reached for comment.
One of four Republican candidates vying for the nomination in the 8th Congressional District, Mike Detmer planned a “full court press” in the remaining hours before Tuesday’s primary.
“We were delayed a couple months with the shutdown so we’ve got the whole team out across the district trying to reach as many people as we can,” Detmer said.
The Howell real estate agent is running against Marine veteran Alan Hoover of Ortonville, former television anchor and prosecutor Paul Junge of Brighton and lawyer Kristina Lyke of Fowlerville. The Republican victor will take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, in the November general election.
Detmer said he plans to continue door-to-door canvassing and campaign events, concentrating on easily missed voters in the rural areas of the 8th Congressional District, which encompasses Livingston and Ingham counties and parts of Oakland County.
“People’s spirits are really high,” Detmer said. “I think everybody’s really excited, no matter what team you’re on, to get the primary segment past us.”
Other candidates didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
But Junge sent out a fundraising email that made a last-minute pitch for support.
“Michigan is ready for a political outsider who will step up to get things done, not pander toward Nancy Pelosi’s liberal policies,” Junge said about the House speaker from California. “…Working in the Trump administration, I saw first-hand what President Trump needs in order to fight against the Liberal’s dangerous socialist agenda.”
Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed
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