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Michigan Democrat likely to be first Muslim woman elected to Congress

Updated 2:24 PM ET, Wed August 8, 2018

(CNN) - Rashida Tlaib will likely be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress after CNN has projected her to win the Democratic primary in Michigan's 13th District.

Tlaib, who beat a crowded field of Democrats to win Tuesday's primary, will not face a Republican opponent in November's general election. She can still be opposed by a write-in candidate, but would be the overwhelming favorite in the deeply Democratic district.

"The winner of tonight's primary will win the election," Andy Goddeeris, Tlaib's campaign manager, said on Tuesday. "No doubt about it."

The congressional seat had been held by former Rep. John Conyers before he resigned in December amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Tlaib, the eldest daughter of Palestinian immigrants, was one of more than 90 American Muslims running for office this year.

"It's not about just being out there and flaunting your faith," Tlaib told CNN last month. "I always tell people that I'm exposing Islam in such a pivotal way, an impactful way, through public service."

In 2008, Tlaib became the first Muslim woman ever to serve in Michigan's state legislature.

"Rashida is the perfect example of how to hustle and win the right way, not just for Muslims or Arabs, but for anyone who ever felt the system was too stacked against them and had no place for a face like theirs," said Zaki Barzinji, the White House liaison to American Muslims under former President Barack Obama.

"She may be the first Muslim congresswoman, but she just opened the door for millions of Rashidas to follow. As a Muslim and Arab father of a 9-month-old baby girl, I've never felt more hopeful about my daughter's future."

Hoda Hawa, director of policy and advocacy at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, likewise celebrated Tlaib's historic win.

"We are thrilled for Rashida's monumental victory last night and what this means for American Muslims in the political and civic process and what it means for America's new leadership," Hawa said.

In the 13th District race, Tlaib beat out much of Detroit's Democratic establishment, running to the left of Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones and other Democratic candidates. She was endorsed by the party's progressive wing, including Justice for Democrats, the group that backed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in her upset win in New York in June.

"Rashida sees a lot of herself in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," Goddeeris told CNN last month. "We feel like we are part of this wave that's coming: unapologetically progressive people who are unafraid of taking on the Democratic establishment."

Like many Democratic candidates, Tlaib has been critical of President Donald Trump, referring to his election as the "bat signal" that provoked many progressive women to run for office.

Two years ago, she was arrested for disrupting a Trump speech in downtown Detroit, where she shouted at him that "our kids deserve better" and encouraged him to read the Constitution.

Tlaib is also running against Jones in a primary for the special election in the district, and the winner will serve from November until the beginning of the next Congress. CNN has not yet called the results for that race. The general election primary Tlaib won is for the full two-year term that begins next January.


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