Thanedar leads African-American candidates for 13th Congressional Dem nomination

Updated, 8:40 a.m., 8/3/22, with Hollier’s concession

State Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit) has won the Michigan’s 13th District Democratic Party primary over several well-known African-American candidates. 

As of 8:14 a.m. Wednesday, Thanedar has 28.3%, with 68% reporting, according to unofficial returns. He is followed by state Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) with 23.5% and Portia Roberson, president and CEO of Focus: HOPE, with 16.9%. 

Hollier issued a statement conceding the race just after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“I want to congratulate Shri Thanedar on his election. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us get to this moment — from our volunteers, to our supporters, to our staff — while we may not have pulled off a win, you all still deserve to celebrate the great work you did for the people of the 13th. I gave this race everything I had, and we all worked hard for the causes we believe in – all gas and no brakes since launching our campaign in January,” he said.

Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) | Ken Coleman photo

In addition to Hollier and Roberson other Black candidates include former state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo; Michael Griffie, an attorney and official with Teach America-Detroit, an education-focused nonprofit; Sharon McPhail, a former Detroit City Council member and assistant Wayne County prosecutor; John Conyers III, a son of the former U.S. House member; and Sam Riddle, a Detroit political consultant; and businesswoman Laura Rutledge. 

The vote-tallying process has been delayed by a modem issue that has slowed down data collection efforts in the Wayne County clerk’s office. 

The newly drawn district is heavily Democratic, meaning the winner of the Democratic primary is the favorite to win the November general election. It includes a portion of Detroit, as well as other Wayne County communities such as Highland Park, Hamtramck, Harper Woods, the Grosse Pointes, Allen Park, River Rouge, Melvindale and Taylor.

Thanedar, a millionaire businessman, is an Indian immigrant who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018, spending $10 million of his own money. He narrowly won Detroit but lost to now-Gov. Gretchen Whitmer statewide in the Democratic Primary election. He was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2020. 

He self-funded his congressional campaign with more than $8.1 million and bought a huge amount of television and issued several mailers with policy themes. 

The new congressional and legislative districts drawn by the state’s first independent redistricting commission gave rise to concerns about African-American representation.

Some political observers suggested that the Black candidates would split the vote, thus making it easier for Thanedar to win. Detroit is the largest majority-Black city in the nation and has had at least one Black congressional member represent its residents since 1955. 

“I haven’t had a single person talk about race,” Thanedar told the Advance on Monday. 

During the last several weeks of the campaign, he attacked Hollier for being the only Senate Democrat to support the Canadian company Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline and taking contributions from United Democracy Project, a super PAC tied to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby group.  

Hollier secured endorsements from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans. He also secured the important Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee nod. The organization is the political arm of Fellowship Chapel Church led by the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the nonpartisan Detroit NAACP. Hollier awaited election results at Greektown Casino in downtown Detroit. 

Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo at the bipartisan expungement press conference in Detroit, Sept. 9, 2019 | Ken Coleman

Roberson secured the endorsement of the powerful EMILY’s List, which supports abortion-rights women candidates, as well as U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), the only Black member of Michigan’s congressional delegation. Lawrence announced in January she is retiring at the end of her current term. 

Gay-Dagnogo, a Detroit Board of Education member, carried out a high-profile campaign, as did Griffie. 

The Democratic nominee will face Republican Martell Bivings in the Nov. 8 general election.  

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