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Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Minn., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., take questions on Capitol Hill on Nov. 30, 2021.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Minn., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., take questions on Capitol Hill on Nov. 30, 2021.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

Democrats on the left face primary challenges for 'no' votes on infrastructure

Progressive leaders have challengers from the center with a focus on their opposition to the bipartisan infrastructure bill.


Four of the six progressive members of Congress who voted against a $1 trillion infrastructure package last year are facing primary challenges from more centrist candidates who claim the members are neglecting the needs of their constituents.

Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Jamaal Bowman, six high-profile figures in the progressive movement, voted against the bipartisan infrastructure bill to protest the fact that the bill was voted on without a companion social spending package, often referred to as "Build Back Better."

Now, Bush, Tlaib, Omar and Bowman face primary challengers this month who say they are fed up with the national profiles of their congressional representatives and are demanding more attention for their home districts.

And on Tuesday, Bush and Tlaib will face these challengers in their respective primaries.

Bush's most notable opponent in Missouri's 1st District, state Sen. Steve Roberts, has been a critic of her "no" vote on infrastructure.

“You can’t be in a position where if you don’t get everything you want, you’re a no vote,” Roberts told St. Louis Public Radio. “We need elected leaders who are willing to work with folks on both sides of the aisle with a priority of bringing resources back to St. Louis City and St. Louis County.”

Bush has pushed back on Roberts' assertions and has blasted him this cycle over sexual assault allegations he's faced in the past.

Tlaib is facing three primary challengers in Michigan's 12th District, one of who has attacked her over her "no" vote on the infrastructure bill.

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey told Jewish Insider that Tlaib's vote on the bill was the "last straw" before she decided to run.

"For you to run as a Democrat in that district and then don’t support our Democratic president, and don’t support some of the benefits that would directly benefit our community, I feel like you have another agenda," Winfrey said.

Tlaib has defended her vote on the bill, saying after the president's State of the Union address this year, “Some important parts of the president’s agenda became law with the infrastructure bill. But we campaigned on doing even more."

Omar's primary in Minnesota's 5th District will be held on August 9 and her opponent, former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels, also cited her infrastructure vote as a reason he decided to run against her.

"Unfortunately in this case, Rep. Omar’s position was quite literally ‘my way or the highway,’ a position that fails to recognize the tremendous infrastructural needs of our community,” Samuels told MPR News in March.

And in New York's 16th District, Bowman will face three challengers in September.

"This is a historic bill, and he voted against it," attorney and candidate Vedat Gashi told Jewish Insider about Bowman's "no" vote on infrastructure.

Though all of these challengers emerged over the last year, citing progressive "no" votes on infrastructure as one of the events that compelled them to run, each incumbent is well-positioned to win their primary and retain their seat.

Omar, Bowman, Bush and Tlaib have each raised millions this cycle, significantly outpacing their opponents in fundraising. And, some of their constituents do appreciate them holding out for a more progressive agenda.

“I’m not your typical polished politician, I’m just never going to be. But if anything, my residents like me this way. Honestly, every time I come to anybody’s porch or talk to them they’re like, ‘Oh my God I feel liberated anytime you speak up,'" Tlaib told attendees at a recent local Democratic Club meeting.