Big spending by pro-Israel groups fails to sway voters in 2 of 3 congressional races in metro Detroit

Two pro-Israel groups spent a combined $9 million to sway congressional races in favor of three centrist Democrats, but only one of those candidates won

click to enlarge From left, U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and state Rep. Shri Thanedar. - Congress
From left, U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and state Rep. Shri Thanedar.

Two pro-Israel groups spent a combined $9 million to sway congressional races in favor of three centrist Democrats, but only one of those candidates won Tuesday’s primary race.

In a matchup featuring two incumbent Democrats, Rep. Haley Stevens defeated U.S. Rep. Andy Levin 60% to 40%, with 99% of the votes counted in the 11th District.

Stevens, a centrist Democrat from Waterford Township, received at least $3.9 million from United Democracy Project, a hawkish, pro-Israel political action committee (PAC) funded by GOP mega donors and moderate Democrats. Most of the money paid for television and digital ads.

The PAC spent an additional $343,000 on ads attacking Levin, a Jewish progressive from Bloomfield Township.

“As a proud daughter of Oakland County, I can’t wait to be the first woman to represent so many communities here in the new 11th District,” Stevens said in a statement. “From my 15 Towns kickoff tour, to knocking thousands of doors in new communities, to seeing the friendly faces of my longtime supporters who have been my champions since day 1, this has been an incredible race. Voters of Oakland County, thank you. Thank you for putting your trust in me and choosing me to continue to be your voice in Washington. I am rooting for you, I am working for you, and I will never stop fighting for you.”

The 11th Congressional District covers a large section of Oakland County, including Farmington, Farmington Hills, Birmingham, West Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills, Pontiac, Oak Park, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Royal Oak, Berkley, Clawson, Waterford Township, Walled Lake, Wixom, and Auburn Hills.

Stevens will face Mark Ambrose, a veteran and financial analyst from Bloomfield Township, in the general election.

The newly drawn district heavily favors Democrats.

The PAC also spent more than $2.7 million on ads in support of state Sen. Adam Hollier, a moderate Democrat who was facing 12 candidates, including state Rep. Shri Thanedar.

Thanedar, a millionaire entrepreneur who has built a relatively progressive record in the House, won the 13th Congressional District race with 28% of the vote, followed by Hollier with 24%.

The PAC spent an additional $1.4 million attacking Thanedar, baselessly suggesting he was a secret Republican.

“This race was not about me,” Thanedar said in a statement. “Michigan's 13th Congressional district is one of the poorest in the country, and I will fight for economic and racial justice in Congress. We must continue the fight against the special interests that seek to divide us and prevent us from achieving the basic rights that we all deserve. We have a lot of work in front of us, and you can count on me to continue fighting for our communities.”

During the campaign, Hollier told Metro Times that Thanedar was an “existential threat” to Israel because he co-sponsored a resolution in the state House that called for ending U.S. funding to Israel’s military. The resolution, which never reached the floor for a vote, urges the “Congress of the United States to enact policies that halt taxpayer funded aid to Israel, which supports the military detention of Palestinian children; the unlawful seizure, appropriation, and destruction of Palestinian property; forcible displacement, harm, and killing of civilians in the West Bank; or any further annexation of Palestinian land in violation of international law.”

Thanedar now says he regrets sponsoring the resolution and has asked the sponsors of the measure to remove his name. He has since added his support of Israel to his campaign website, along with a resolution that condemns antisemitism.

As a result of the race, for the first time in 70 years, Detroit won’t have a Black representative in Congress.

Black Democrats filed a lawsuit in January to challenge the drawing of new district boundaries, arguing that the maps are racially discriminatory and violate the Voting Rights Act. The new maps eradicated all of the predominantly Black districts in Congress.

Hollier was one of the most outspoken critics of the redistricting.

The 13th District, which includes much of Detroit, Highland Park, the Grosse Pointes, and northern Downriver communities, is predominantly Democratic-leaning, making it almost certain that Thanedar will prevail in the November general election.

Another pro-Israel PAC, Urban Empowerment Action, had pledged to spend up to $1 million to unseat U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a progressive Democrat from Detroit and the first woman of Palestinian descent to be elected to Congress.

Tlaib has repeatedly criticized Israel's heavy-handed treatment of Palestinians.

Tlaib handily won the race, defeating Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett, and former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson.

Tlaib will face Republican Steven Elliott in the general election.

The 12th Disctrict, which includes Detroit’s west side and a smattering of communities in Wayne and Oakland counties, is heavily Democratic.

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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