Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said she is running again for Congress, this time in a Democratic primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit.
Winfrey, 63, was just elected to a fifth term as clerk last fall, winning reelection with 71% of the vote to 29% for Denzel McCampbell, who serves as Tlaib’s communications director.
“There’s a disconnect, as it appears to me, between the community and our current representative in the 12th Congressional District, so that’s why I run,” Winfrey told The Detroit News on Monday.
Tlaib’s campaign declined to comment.
Winfrey said she will continue in her post as clerk as she campaigns for the U.S. House in Michigan’s newly drawn 12th District, which includes Dearborn, Southfield and part of Detroit, as well as Livonia, Inkster, Westland, Garden City and Redford Charter Township.
Winfrey joins a Democratic primary field that includes Democratic former state Reps. Shanelle Jackson of Detroit and Phil Cavanagh of Redford Township.
“What really did it for me is when I read that she voted against the infrastructure bill that President Biden introduced and wanted to be passed. That’s so necessary, especially in the state of Michigan. Our roads are one of the worst in the nation,” Winfrey said.
“Also, the quality of our water, it’s poor in some of our areas, and it’s just a matter of time before it reaches the entire region. So yeah, that definitely is a lack of connection between the community and the current representative.”
Tlaib last year voted against the bipartisan infrastructure plan, saying that passing it would give up Democrats’ leverage to move the larger social spending plan, the Build Back Better Act, through the House and Senate.
Tlaib did applaud elements of the bipartisan bill such as funding for lead pipe replacement, but said changes to the National Environmental Policy Act’s environmental reviews would ultimately mean communities would have less protection from “corporate” polluters.
Tlaib enjoys national name recognition as a member of the progressive “Squad” on Capitol Hill, and she is a strong fundraiser, reporting $1.4 million in cash reserves as of Dec. 31.
Following the redistricting process, Tlaib announced last month that she intends to move and run for a third term to Congress in the 12th District, noting it covers over 60% of the total population of her current territory, including Inkster, Westland, Garden City and Redford Charter Township.
That move threw open the race for the new 13th District, which covers the bulk of Detroit, Hamtramck, the Grosse Pointes and downriver communities. Multiple candidates have already jumped into that contest.
Winfrey in 2016 lost a challenge to former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, in the current 13th District, but said Monday she lives in the new 12th District, and that’s why she’s running there.
Winfrey said her decision to run against Tlaib is not connected to the challenge she received last year from McCampbell, whom she called a “nice young man.”
“I’ve never had an election where no one ran against me — ever, ever, ever. That’s part of democracy, right? He has that right,” she said.
She added that she appreciated that McCampbell was “respectful” and didn’t go after her following revelations that Winfrey and her husband had $65,000 in tax liens on their home, and that they’re on a payment plan with the Internal Revenue Service.
“I just appreciate when people run good, clean races,” Winfrey said. “We just have to talk to the constituents. I think our country is doing enough dogging each other out and being nasty and being rude and just not being professional. I think people are tired of that. I know I am.”
Winfrey was first elected clerk in 2005, defeating incumbent Jackie Currie. Her work in that role has drawn criticism following elections wherein some ballots were left unable to be recounted.
Wayne County’s canvassers called for state intervention in 2020, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson formed a partnership with Winfrey that brought in a team of advisers to ensure the integrity of Detroit’s November election that year.
Detroit was still the center of unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud by former President Donald Trump and his allies, despite results showing that Trump actually performed better in the majority-Black city in 2020 than he did in 2016.
Winfrey later testified before the U.S. House about how she and her staffers received threats of violence for weeks afterward the election.
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