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Arab Americans

Wadie Deddeh

Wadie Deddeh

Wadie P. Deddeh, Democrat, was a California Assembly Member from 1967-1983 and State Senator from 1983-1993. In 1966, Deddeh became the first Iraqi-born American elected to office anywhere in the United States.

Deddeh attended the University of Baghdad and received a B.A. in Literature in 1946. After immigrating to the United States in 1948, he received a Master’s Degree in Political Science in 1956 from the University of Detroit. In 1982, Deddeh received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from National University. Deddeh became a naturalized citizen in 1953 and worked variously as a grocery store clerk and owner, teacher of Arabic at the Army Language School at Monterey, California, and civics teacher at Sweetwater High School. Before being elected to office, Deddeh was Chair and Professor of the Southwestern College Department of Political Science.

Deddeh married Mary-Lynn Drake, a drama and speech coach at Hilltop Junior High School in Chula Vista, California. The Deddehs have one son, Peter.

Elected to the 77th Assembly District in 1966, Deddeh served for 16 years in the Assembly before successfully running for the 40th Senate District in 1982. During Deddeh’s tenure in the Assembly, the 77th District extended from La Mesa on the north to the Mexican border on the south. Communities in the 40th District during Deddeh’s tenure in the Senate include Balboa Park, Bonita, Chula Vista, Encanto, Harbor Island, Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, National City, San Diego, San Ysidro, Spring Valley, Castle Park, Harbor Side, La Presa, Lincoln Acres, Otay Mesa, Rancho del Otay, and Sunnyside. In 1986, Deddeh was interviewed by the Reagan White House for an ambassadorship to Iraq, but was not appointed.

As an Assembly Member, Deddeh’s interests included alcoholic beverage policy and issues related to intoxicated motorists, border issues, education and retired educators, energy policy, environmental policy, gun control, judicial policy, Mexican-American affairs, retired employee benefits, tax policy, and unemployment compensation. In the Senate, Deddeh focused on taxation, education, public employees, and transportation. Some notable legislation sponsored by Deddeh in the Senate included limiting the dissemination of pornography, prohibiting abortions in certain cases, curtailing illegal gang activity, and banning transfers of funds between political candidates.