There Will Now Likely Be Two Democratic Socialists of America Members in Congress

Tlaib, a daughter of Palestinian immigrants, will likely become the first Muslim congresswoman, and she would join Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the two DSA members.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast

Rashida Tlaib made all kinds of history on Tuesday evening.

As the winner of a crowded Democratic primary in Michigan’s 13th congressional district, Tlaib, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and a former state representative, will almost assuredly become the first Muslim woman to serve in Congress.

She will run unopposed come November, save for a Republican write-in candidate who poses little threat to her election in a deeply blue district. She will succeed Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who resigned last year following sexual-harassment allegations.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, who is vacating his seat to run for his state’s attorney general, told The Daily Beast of Tlaib’s win: “It’s historic, not only because people are standing up against Trump’s hate and Islamophobia, but because of who Rashida is. She’s a fighter for the things working people are demanding right now.” He added: “Rashida is a friend, and I know she is going to be an incredible congresswoman for the people of Michigan’s 13th District.”

Tlaib ran on a progressive platform of Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and a refusal to take corporate PAC money. Similar to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old leftist who unseated a long-serving Democratic congressman in New York’s 14th congressional district, Tlaib is a card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

And so, as the presumptive winner this fall, Tlaib would join Cortez, another presumptive winner from a heavily blue district, in representing DSA among national lawmakers.

Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday celebrated the Michigan candidate’s victory by posting to Twitter an image of the two women together.

"Rashida Tlaib pulled off an amazing win, and will likely be the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to ever serve in Congress," Ocasio-Cortez told The Daily Beast. "She will be a shining example for all Americans that everyone has an equal shot at leadership, no matter their skin color, where they grew up, or how they pray. I'm excited to be joined by another progressive woman of color in Congress who will fight for economic, social and racial justice." 

Asked about the prospect of a potential DSA-type caucus in the House of Representatives, Andy Goddeeris, campaign manager for Tlaib said "Rashida hasn't had a chance to think about caucus or leadership decisions, but I'm sure we'll be talking through those things shortly."

He added that she "enjoyed meeting AOC (Ocasio-Cortez) and is really looking forward to working with her in Congress - and wants to also help get people like Ilhan Omar to Congress with them," referring to the Muslim Somali-American legislator running for Ellison's seat.

The Trump era has been something of a boon for the Democratic Socialists of America. The organization has seen its membership surge to around 48,000 people nationwide, with some of its members winning congressional primaries and local elections.

Among those who’ve achieved political success in the past year on the state legislative level are Lee Carter, who was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017, and Summer Lee and Sara Innamorato, who both knocked off long-term incumbent Democrats in Pennsylvania.

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“Our electoral victories on Tuesday night reflect the demands for true progressive changes across the country, not just in deep blue, coastal states," Catherine Hoffman, a member of the National Political Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America, said. “We look forward to continuing our movement at the ballot box in 2018 and building our momentum to bring true, material change to working people.”

Tlaib could have joined the House sooner than 2019 had she won a separate Democratic special-election primary on Tuesday to serve out the rest of Conyers’ term. That race was too close to call as of Wednesday afternoon.

Update 6:20 PM: This article was updated to include comment from Tlaib's campaign.