In Islamabad, a cafe serves qahwah, the “language of love” for Arabs

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CHICAGO: Arab Americans are among thousands of candidates across the United States running in municipal and regional elections on November 2.

Key races include campaign battles for mayor in Boston, Massachusetts and in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, Michigan. In Virginia, an Arab-American woman is set to become the second most powerful office holder in the state.

Democrat Hala Ayala, who is partly Lebanese, is leading the race for lieutenant governor in Virginia against Republican Winsome Sears.

The Virginia office is important because in addition to being the next governor when a vacancy occurs, the office also serves as the President of the Virginia Senate who conducts floor sessions and votes to decide controversial votes. problems.

It will be the first time that a woman has held the second highest office in the state.

Ayala, a member of the House of Delegates representing Prince William County, won the Democratic primary by defeating compatriot from Virginia and member of the House of Delegates, Sam Rasoul.

Rasoul, also a Democrat, is seeking to retain his legislative seat representing Southwest Virginia’s 11th District, which includes parts of Roanoke. Elected for the first time in 2014, Rasoul raised $ 2.1 million in his campaign funds, with significant Arab-American support. Rasoul’s Republican opponent Charlie Nave raised just $ 40,000.

In Dearborn, a city with a large Arab-American population, the election is expected to give the city its first Arab-American mayor.

“We have had people of Arab origin in the local civil service for a long time. What is so important in 2021 is that these young Arab Americans proudly wear their ethnicity on their sleeves. And each of them has a history of public service, ”said Jim Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute.

“The two that I’m following most closely are the mayoral elections in Boston and Dearborn. I’m Boston because it’s a great American city and Anissa is an amazing candidate who operates on a platform of service and realistic solutions to this community’s most pressing problems.

Being a minority woman is also an issue in the Boston race. The, Annissa Essaibi Georges, who has a Tunisian father and a Polish mother, is in contention with Michelle Wu to become Boston’s first female mayor.

Boston has elected all men to the city’s powerful executive office since 1630, but this year has seen a surge of nominations from women and ethnically diverse people in special elections. Former mayor Marty Walsh resigned last March after being appointed US Secretary of Labor by President Joe Biden, creating the vacant post in Boston.

George and Wu defeated five other candidates to win the second round of the November 2 general election. Polls show George is running behind Wu.

If George does manage to win the race, however, she will set a new record as the first Tunisian-American to hold elected public office in any district in America.

Zogby said the mayoral contest in Dearborn is also special, although Arabs have won seats as members of the city council.

“Thirty-six years ago, when the Arab American Institute was just starting up, the mayoral candidate ran on a platform of ‘what to do about the Arab problem’, Zogby recalled.

“Today, after years of hard work, the majority of the city council in this community is made up of Arab Americans, as does the chief of police, his state representative, several judges and soon, God willing. , its mayor, Abdullah Hammoud. “

Pollster and political consultant Dennis Denno called the Dearborn contests “a critical test of Arab-American voting power.”

He added, “If our community can elect an Arab-American mayor in Dearborn, it will show both political parties that our community is organized and can unite behind a smart and energetic candidate.

“And if our community is divided or doesn’t bother to vote, it will show that the Arab-American community should not be taken seriously. “

Although in neighboring Detroit, the main candidate is not an Arab, Denno noted that outgoing mayor Mike Duggan has been very sensitive to Arab-American concerns.

“The election of the mayor of Detroit, which will almost inevitably lead to a landslide victory for incumbent Mayor Mike Duggan, and be a success for the Arab-American community,” said Denno.

Mayor Duggan has been open to our community, has hired Arab Americans and is not playing the big city tired game of dividing one ethnic group against another.

In the nearby Dearborn Heights neighborhood, the city’s mayor, Daniel Paletko, has died from the COVID-19 virus, creating a vacant position. On November 2, voters will vote for two positions, someone to fill Paletko’s remaining term that ends on December 31, and for a full term starting in January.

Lebanese immigrant and former US Navy Bill Bazzi, a member of Dearborn Heights city council since 2018, was elected by his fellow interim mayor after Paletko’s death. He faces city council president Denise Malinowski-Maxwell and candidate Anthony Camilleri.

In addition to Bazzi, three of the seven members of Dearborn Heights City Council are Lebanese Americans and Muslims. Dearborn Heights is made up of 32 percent Arab Americans, according to the Detroit News citing data from the 2019 census.


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