Dem hoping to replace Conyers pushes Trump impeachment

Rashida Tlaib for Congress

Rashida Tlaib could make history this fall as the first Muslim woman elected to Congress — and she’s making impeaching President Trump central to her campaign.

Tlaib is running in a crowded Democratic primary on Aug. 7 to fill the deep-blue Detroit seat last held by former Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D), who resigned amid sexual harassment allegations.

And while some Democrats — especially party leaders — have shied away from talk of impeaching Trump, Tlaib plans to make impeachment a core part of her campaign.

{mosads}“I keep telling people this is about electing a jury that will impeach him, and I make a heck of a juror,” Tlaib, who became the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan state legislature in 2009, told The Hill.

“Not only as a mother raising two Muslim boys that are now questioning if they can tell people whether or not they’re Muslim … what I hear from people supporting me is there’s a tremendous amount of hope sending a voice like mine to Congress.”

This isn’t the first time Tlaib has sought to confront Trump. In August 2016, Tlaib was one of a dozen women escorted out of the Detroit Economic Club for interrupting Trump’s speech and telling the president to read the Constitution.

Voters in Michigan’s 13th District are used to hearing impeachment talk from their representative — Conyers wanted to impeach former President George W. Bush during Bush’s second term. Now political observers in Michigan see Tlaib attempting to take up that mantle.

“For Rashida, her play is not so much being the farthest-left candidate on policy, it’s being the farthest left on rhetoric and tactics,” said Democratic strategist Susan Demas. “And she’s not afraid to say, ‘If I’m elected, I’m impeaching Donald Trump, that’s my calling card.’ ”

Tlaib further bucks Democratic leaders by saying that, if elected, she “probably” won’t vote for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to keep her leadership role.

A growing number of Democratic candidates running in swing districts this cycle have said they won’t vote for Pelosi. But the frustration for Tlaib, who’s running in a solidly Democratic district, mainly stems from how Pelosi handled the Conyers situation as the harassment allegations against him grew.

Pelosi initially defended Conyers, dodging questions about whether he should resign and calling on the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations. But a few days later, Pelosi called on Conyers to step down.

The committee opened up a probe in late November, but those investigations typically don’t continue once a member leaves office.

“I said ‘probably not’ about Nancy Pelosi primarily because it was very painful to see what happened with John Conyers,” said Tlaib, who said she’s a victim of sexual harassment herself.

“I do believe the survivors, and I just felt like they deserved a much better process instead of him being pushed out to retire. Because honestly all of us were like, ‘We need an Ethics Committee hearing. We want to know what’s happening and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.’ ”

Conyers’s seat is a majority-black district that encompasses much of Detroit but also extends far into the suburbs. The Democratic stronghold — which the party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, swept by 60 points in 2016 — has attracted nine other candidates, but the field won’t be settled until the April 24 filing deadline.

There will be two November elections taking place in the 13th District: one to fill the remainder of Conyers’s term, which ends on Dec. 31, and the other to serve out the next two-year term for the seat starting on Jan. 1, 2019.

Michigan political strategists say there’s a path for nonblack candidates like Tlaib in the race.

Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, represented southwest Detroit in the state legislature from 2009 to 2014, when she had to leave her seat because of term limits. As a state lawmaker, she’s won elections representing a predominantly African-American and Latino district.

While running for her last term, Tlaib said she knocked on close to 30,000 doors.

Now she plans to mount another aggressive canvassing operation for the House seat. Tlaib’s campaign told The Hill that she raised more than $500,000 in the first fundraising quarter of 2018 and knocked on 12.5 percent of the doors in the district since launching in February.

But Tlaib isn’t the only nonblack candidate seen as a strong contender. Strategists point to Westland Mayor Bill Wild, a white candidate and the only hopeful in the race from outside of Detroit, as a potential contender who could draw on suburban votes to surpass the rest of the field.

The primary has also sparked some family drama, with two candidates with the Conyers name running for the seat.

Conyers shocked political observers when he endorsed his son, John Conyers III, following his resignation. His son, who has no political experience and has split his time between Los Angeles and Detroit, officially jumped into the race in late January.

That’ll pit him against his cousin, state Sen. Ian Conyers, who was elected to office in 2016 and has a much larger base of support.

While the Conyers name is still highly regarded in the district, strategists believe that two Conyers candidates in the race will ultimately split their vote while benefitting the other candidates.

“One of our residents said it beautifully: ‘You shouldn’t be able to inherit this seat, you have to earn it,’ ” Tlaib said.

But political observers also expect a strong showing from Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, a black candidate who has drawn a powerful endorsement from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Many see her as a leading contender who’s expected to shore up most of the support from the business and labor communities.

“[Tlaib] is a dynamic campaigner,” said Bill Ballenger, a former state GOP lawmaker who now runs the Ballenger Report news site. “She’s going to be a major contender. It’s conceivable she could win, but Brenda Jones has a leg up on her in that she has a much bigger base in the district than Tlaib has.”

Tags Democratic primary Donald Trump Hillary Clinton John Conyers Nancy Pelosi Rashida Tlaib

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