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Shri Thanedar
Black Democrats in Michigan and on Capitol Hill want to see one of Detroit’s congressional seats held by a Black lawmaker. Michael Buck/Wood-TV8 via AP

Black Caucus Members Line Up to Help Oust Rep. Shri Thanedar

It’s a rare instance of members trying to kick out an incumbent from their own party.

Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus have thrown their support behind Rep. Shri Thanedar’s primary challenger, a rare instance of sitting Democrats trying to oust one of their own.

Reps. Steven Horsford, current CBC chair, and Joyce Beatty, the group’s former chair, both announced on Friday that they would back Adam Hollier, a Black politician, over Thanedar, a first-term lawmaker and the first Indian American to represent Michigan in Congress.

Democrats in Michigan have been working to oust Thanedar. Now, sitting lawmakers in the CBC are throwing their weight behind that effort. In a statement, Horsford described Hollier as “the kind of leader who understands the importance of protecting our freedoms, fighting for our rights and ensuring opportunities for everyone.”

Beatty, who served as the chair of the CBC from 2021-2023, took a not-so-subtle dig at Thanedar’s social media habits in her statement: “While some politicians would rather tweet than show up, Adam always steps up, shows up and delivers results.”

Thanedar did not reply to a request for comment.

It’s rare for sitting members of Congress to endorse a challenger to an incumbent, especially one in a very safe seat. However, Black Democrats in Michigan and on Capitol Hill want to see one of Detroit’s congressional seats held by a Black lawmaker: The city had a Black representative for nearly seven decades until Thanedar’s election in 2022.

Despite beating his Republican opponent by 47% (not an unusual performance given that the seat leans heavily Democrat), Thanedar is not winning any popularity contests on Capitol Hill. NOTUS reported in January that during Thanedar’s tenure in Congress, he’s faced accusations of running a toxic work environment, not doing enough for his constituents back in Detroit and spending too much time making memes for his social media accounts, all accusations he’s vehemently denied.

Prominent Black leaders in Michigan published a letter in May 2023, also signed by former Rep. Brenda Lawrence, who previously held Thanedar’s seat, in which they urged Detroit voters to rally behind Hollier. They also took thinly veiled swipes at Thanedar without using his name, likening him to “out of touch multi-millionaires” who turn a “blind eye to the struggles of working people across the Detroit area.”

When NOTUS spoke to Thanedar in January, he said he was not worried about his colleagues on the Hill and back home endorsing Hollier over him. Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin was also an early supporter of Hollier.

As things stand, Thanedar has the financial advantage over Hollier. FEC filings from the first quarter show that Thanedar reported over $5 million cash on hand ($3 million of which is his own money) compared to Hollier, who reported $570,000 cash on hand. Thanedar also boasts a larger endorsement list from sitting members of Congress, including Reps. Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi, according to his campaign website.

When NOTUS reported in January on the coordinated effort to boot Thanedar, his Michigan colleagues couldn’t definitively say whether they’d support him. Their opinions haven’t changed in light of Hollier’s new endorsements.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, who recently joined House Democratic leadership as messaging chair, didn’t answer when NOTUS asked her if she would endorse Thanedar in light of Hollier garnering support from Black leaders on Capitol Hill.

Rep. Haley Stevens, who serves as co-chair of the Frontline program of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, told NOTUS that what matters is how voters in Detroit feel, given that the seat is a lock for Democrats. She added that her focus was on ensuring that Democrats seize the House majority come November.

“When I was in a member-on-member primary, I didn’t have anyone in the Michigan delegation endorse me,” she said. “I’m going to take any Democrat who comes into Congress to help us get Hakeem Jeffries the [speaker’s] gavel.”

House Democratic leadership won’t say if they’ll come to Thanedar’s defense either. Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Pete Aguilar declined to talk about Thanedar’s campaign when NOTUS asked him whether leadership would do so.

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters on Friday that he was “largely unaware” of the formal endorsement but remained noncommittal.

“I’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but I think my track record has been clear in terms of standing by incumbent members of the House Democratic Caucus,” Jeffries said.

Tinashe Chingarande is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow. Calen Razor, a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow, contributed to this report.