Closing The Gap

Meet Rashida Tlaib, who is poised to become the first Muslim woman in Congress

Democrats pick former Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib to run unopposed for the congressional seat that former Rep. John Conyers held for more than 50 years.
Al Goldis | AP 
Democrats pick former Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib to run unopposed for the congressional seat that former Rep. John Conyers held for more than 50 years.

On Tuesday night Rashida Tlaib won the Democratic nomination in Michigan's 13th Congressional District, clearing the path for her to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress, according to the Associated Press.

There are no Republican or third-party challengers in the race, and so Tlaib will run unopposed in November and begin her two-year term in January. She is expected to replace long time Rep. John Conyers, 89, who stepped down in December due to health reasons and amid sexual harassment allegations.

"I want people across the country to know that you don't need to sell out," The New York Times reports the 42-year-old saying early Wednesday morning. "You don't have to change who you are to run for office — and that is what this country is about."

Tlaib first made history in 2008 when she was elected State Representative and became the first Muslim woman to hold this position. From 2009 to 2014, she served in the Michigan House and helped to secure millions of dollars for free health clinics, Meals on Wheels programs for seniors and before and after school education funding, according to her campaign website.

In her speech following Tuesday night's win, Tlaib, who was born to Palestinian parents, said she will "fight back against every racist and oppressive structure that needs to be dismantled" and called out President Trump for his harsh treatment of immigrants.

"I'm going to push back against everything that's so un-American that's coming out of this administration," she said. "My grandmother told me never to let a bully tell me, "Can I do this?" or "You can't do this."

In 2016, Tlaib was kicked out of a ticketed luncheon in Detroit after heckling Trump, then a presidential nominee, about his policies and past treatment of women. On her website, she explains how she will continue to fight against President Trump's policies, including those pertaining to immigration.

"I'm the daughter of immigrants to this country, and I want those who come to our borders seeking a better life to have the same opportunities I've had," says Tlaib, who is the oldest of 14 children, on her campaign site. "We must provide a clear pathway to citizenship for all undocumented Americans, we must dismantle our deportation machine and detention centers, and we must enhance access to justice for immigrants availing themselves of our legal system."

In addition to fighting for immigration reform, the mother of two says that some of her main priorities once elected to Congress will be to raise minimum wage to $15, to fight for equal pay for women and to prevent cuts to social security, medicaid and medicare.

On Wednesday morning, Tlaib took to Twitter to thank her voters for their support and to express her excitement about serving in Congress.

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