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Detroit mayor says US Rep. Thanedar is ‘not helping’ city in endorsing his primary challenger

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — Democratic U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar is facing a rare push from members within his own party to replace him in Michigan’s August primary, spearheaded by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Black leaders from across Wayne County.

Detroit City Council member Mary Waters has emerged as the top contender to unseat Thanedar in Detroit’s 13 Congressional District after former state Sen. Adam Hollier, who had received a slew of high-profile endorsements, was kept off the August ballot due to a lack of valid signatures on his nominating petitions.

At least some of Detroit’s highest ranking Democrats have thrown their support behind Waters in an effort to defeat Thanedar. Duggan was joined by five Detroit City Council members and three state representatives from the Detroit area at a news conference Thursday on Mackinac Island, where many of the state’s top Democrats were attending a conference.

“Our future is in Washington and we need somebody in Congress who fights for us. And right now, I don’t feel like we got any help from our congressman,” Duggan said. ”He’s not a bad person, he’s just not helping.”

Waters, who is Black, is seen by many as the only candidate left with a viable shot at returning Black representation in Congress for Detroit. Shakira Lynn Hawkins, an attorney, is also running in the Democratic primary.

Thanedar, a former state representative and immigrant from India, defeated eight other candidates in the Democratic primary in 2022 before going on to win his first term in office. Thanedar’s win left Detroit, which is nearly 80% Black, without Black representation in Congress for the first time since the early 1950s.

Faith leaders in Detroit and high-profile Michigan Democrats, including Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, had endorsed Hollier in an effort to coalesce around a single Black candidate. With Hollier out of the race, his backers have begun to shift to Waters.

With less than $10,000 in fundraising through the end of March, Waters faces an uphill climb just over two months before the Aug. 6 primary. This is her fourth congressional bid after previously serving in the state House for three terms.

In 2010, Waters pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return and was sentenced to probation. She acknowledged receiving a $6,000 Rolex watch for her work to help a pawn shop relocate in Southfield.

Thanedar, a wealthy businessman, has a major cash advantage and received endorsements on Thursday from Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, of New York, Whip Katherine Clark, of Massachusetts, and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, of California.

In a statement Thursday, Thanedar said that although Duggan is “interested in playing political games, I am focused on continuing to deliver for the people of Detroit.” Thanedar said he remains “confident they will send me back to Washington for another term.”

The endorsements against Thanedar are also a sign of a widening divide within the Democratic Party over the Israel-Hamas war. Thanedar’s district — the state’s most Democratic — holds parts of one of the largest Arab American populations in the country and many of his constituents have pushed back on his support of Israel in its war against Hamas.

State Rep. Alabas Farhat, who represents the Muslim-majority city of Dearborn, said Thursday in his endorsement of Waters that she is a “pro-peace, anti-war” candidate. Waters has been outspoken in her support for a permanent ceasefire in the war.

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Associated Press writer Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.

Joey Cappelletti, The Associated Press


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