U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, appeared Wednesday morning to be well on her way toward winning reelection to a second term, with a commanding lead over Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in the Democratic primary.

Her lead was big enough, in fact, that Tlaib claimed victory in a statement sent out after 9 a.m., saying, “Voters sent a clear message that they’re done waiting for transformative change, that they want an unapologetic fighter who will take on the status quo and win.” The Associated Press, however, had not yet called the race.

After the vote tally barely moved all evening and through the early morning hours, at about 7 a.m., the count on the Wayne County website shot up to 87% of the precincts being tabulated. It showed Tlaib with 66% of the vote to Jones’ 34%.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary in this predominantly Democratic district made up of parts of Detroit, western Wayne County and some Downriver communities historically wins. Past challenger David Dudenhoefer appeared to have the edge in the Republican primary with 48% of the vote, compared with 34% for registered nurse Linda Sawyer and 18% for retired mechanical engineer Al Lemmo.

On Tuesday night, Tlaib, a social activist, lawyer and former state representative, told supporters on a Facebook live video that results might take some time but she believed they had run a positive, ground-level campaign connecting with voters.

“I’m glad that we focused on our work and we focused on our people,” she said. “You all know we’re still waiting for results but i’m confident. I’m confident in what we were able to do, which is really connect to people in a human way.”

Tlaib had been considered the favorite, despite having won only a narrow victory over Jones in a six-person field for nomination to the full two-year term to replace the late U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, two years ago. At the same time, she lost a tight race to Jones in a slightly less-crowded, four-person field for the Democratic nomination to serve out the remaining weeks of Conyers’ term, giving Jones’ supporters hope that she would prevail this year.

Jones ran a campaign focused on criticizing Tlaib as being more interested in her popularity than her district — a difficult claim to make because Tlaib is known for showing up at local events and even marching with protesters, including during recent protests against police brutality. Jones also argued that many of her constituents have been embarrassed by Tlaib’s behavior, including referring to President Donald Trump as a “mother-f—-r” in calling for his impeachment on her first night in office. She later booed comments former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton made about Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom Tlaib endorsed for president this year. Tlaib later apologized.

“My goal and my plan is to win on Aug. 4,” Jones told the Free Press earlier. “Everyone who ran in that last primary (with the exception of Tlaib) has endorsed my candidacy.”

While the count wasn’t over, however, the initial indications were that Tlaib would likely be reelected, given how her name recognition has exploded after publicly sparring with Trump and calling for his impeachment and becoming an internationally known member of the so-called “Squad” of progressive freshmen women in Congress. That group includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

That’s not to say that Tlaib, a Palestinian American who along with Omar is one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, hasn’t been the source of controversy. That has included comments she has made about Israeli control of the occupied territories. But going into the race she had a clear edge in fundraising — having raised more than $3 million to about $165,000 for Jones as of July 15 — and still running an aggressive door-to-door campaign even while adhering to social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

Polls showed a big enough undecided bloc that it could have narrowed the race. But Ed Sarpolus, pollster for Lansing-based Target Insyght, who did research on the race, saw Tlaib with the clear edge.

“She’s got a proven team and she’s got financial resources she can tap into if she needs them,” he told the Free Press some weeks ago. “Rashida is up,” he added.

Still, it was possible the race could narrow as results continued to come in. Even though 362 of 415 precincts in the district had reported, it wasn’t known how many voters might be in those other precincts. The vote total, however, already was more than the total in the primary from two years ago — 92,694 to 89,740 — as efforts to drive up absentee voting and the political polarization in the country appeared to increase turnout.

In her statement Wednesday morning, Tlaib said, “We have a resounding mandate to put people before profits. Let it be known that in the 13th District, just like in communities across our country, we are done with establishment politics that put corporations first. If I was considered the most vulnerable member of the Squad, I think it’s safe to say the Squad is here to stay, and it’s only getting bigger.”

Contact Todd Spangler at tspangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Rashida Tlaib claims win in 2020 Michigan primary against Brenda Jones

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