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Michigan Is About to Elect a Very Different Member of Congress

Michigan Is About to Elect a Very Different Member of Congress

DETROIT — A Palestinian-American woman in the Michigan legislature running in the mold of Bernie Sanders. The African-American president of the Detroit City Council, who is popular with unions. The white mayor of a nearby suburb, positioning himself as a pragmatist. Two black state senators from historically prominent political families.One of the most diverse Democratic…


DETROIT — A Palestinian-American woman in the Michigan legislature running in the mold of Bernie Sanders. The African-American president of the Detroit City Council, who is popular with unions. The white mayor of a nearby suburb, positioning himself as a pragmatist. Two black state senators from historically prominent political families.

One of the most diverse Democratic congressional primaries of the year will reach a climax with voting on Tuesday. Yet it’s the competitive nature of the race that is a drastic adjustment for some residents, considering just how long political representation in this region has been almost singularly defined by one name: Conyers.

Voters are choosing a successor to Representative John Conyers Jr., a legend in Detroit and one of the nation’s most powerful black leaders until he resigned in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct. His House district, the Michigan 13th, has been a base of African-American political, economic and civic power since he first won election in 1964, so much so that Mr. Conyers’ name remains one of the first things that comes up when his would-be successors go door-knocking on the campaign trail, both in Detroit and the surrounding metro area.

Besides electing a new member of Congress, many residents see Tuesday’s election as an opportunity to reshape the identity of the district, which is one of the poorest in the country and a shadow of its former self during Detroit’s heyday, in terms of population, homeownership and jobs. People speak less of choosing candidates based on traditional ideological lines, and more of selecting a new face of hope in a community that has been so defined by waves of economic and political tumult.

recently released report from 24/7 Wall Street, and a 2016 report from the Brookings Institution in Washington said the Motor City had the highest concentrated poverty rate among America’s 25 largest metro areas.

Here’s what’s coming up next on the primary calendar.]

The biggest fund-raiser has been Rashida Tlaib, the state lawmaker who could become the first Muslim woman successfully elected to Congress, but Brenda Jones, Detroit’s well-liked City Council president, may have the highest name recognition in the city. Also running are State Senator Coleman Young II, the only son of legendary Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, and State Senator Ian Conyers, the great-nephew of the now-resigned congressman. A former Detroit state legislator named Shanelle Jackson is also in the race, as is Bill Wild, a white mayor of a Detroit suburb called Westland, who could benefit from the fractured field.

Because there’s little policy daylight among the Democrats, issues of race, gender, age and dynastic politics have all received more attention and discussion in the primary race, as candidates have attempted to use their personal identity and legislative experience to differentiate themselves from their opponents. None will have the seniority and influence of Mr. Conyers, whose signature legislative legacy includes helping found the Congressional Black Caucus and being the first lawmaker to propose the establishment of a Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. But the candidates said their fresh faces would bring the much needed enthusiasm the 89-year-old Conyers missed.

dissolved in 2013, she showed children a cellphone video of her heckling President Trump during a speech at the Detroit Economic Club in 2016. Ms. Tlaib told the children that protesting “evil” was “one of the most American things anyone can do.”

“I like being bad!” one boy then yelled out.

“Me too,” she responded.

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