Arab Americans Make Significant Gains in Congress
By: Amy Hensler/Arab America Contributing Writer
Last night, Arab Americans made significant gains in Congress after the 2018 general elections. Arab American delegates from both the Democratic and Republican parties took major steps to represent the community they owe their success to. Each Arab American candidate vows to serve their community differently, but nonetheless, they all work to represent their diverse communities honorably.
This list covers the ten congressional candidates who ran for office this general election. This article does not include every Arab American who ran for state and local elections, and for more information, Arab America encourages you to look at the Arab American Institute list. Here you will find out more about all of the candidates that made strides and represented the Arab American community proudly.
Of the ten candidates listed below, three of them lost their bid; however, they are appreciated for their hard work and participation in the U.S. political system.
Rashida Tlaib won Michigan’s 13th congressional seat under the Democratic Party. She will be the first Muslim woman in Congress along with Ilhan Omar. She was born to Palestinian immigrant parents in Detroit and has been a Michigan native ever since. Rashida made history by becoming the first Muslim Woman to serve in the Michigan Legislature in 2008. She campaigned on creating economic justice in order to bolster her community. She will continue to stand up for Unions, secure a $15 minimum wage, support equal pay for equal work, and much more.
Congressional candidate Ilhan Omar won Minnesota’s 5th district under the Democratic Party. She will be the first Muslim woman in Congress along with Rashida Tlaib. She was born in Somalia and fled the civil war with her family when she was only eight years old. First arriving in Kenya, Ilhan traveled to the United States at the age of 12. She was openly opposed to President Trump’s immigration ban, and she participated in Minnesota’s lawsuit by rallying more than 2,000 community members in opposition to the travel ban. Some positions Ilhan ran on were guaranteed access to public education, universal health care coverage, gun violence prevention, and many more.
Congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar lost in California’s 50th district under the Democratic Party. He is a young Latino-Arab-American of Palestinian heritage. His campaign slogan, “country over party” stressed his “people first strategy” for serving his community. Ammar was unfairly attacked by his opponent, who is under criminal indictment, by falsely calling him a terrorist. He worked hard in his campaign to support women’s rights, universal healthcare, small businesses, and education.
Donna Shalala is a Democrat and won her election in Florida’s 27th district. Shalala is the granddaughter of immigrants from Lebanon and prides herself on this fact. She will work hard to help restore what she believes is the American Dream by fighting to fix America’s immigration system. She is also an advocate for women’s rights and more gun control legislation.
Congressional candidate Dan David ran and lost Pennsylvania’s 4th district under the Republican Party. He is of Lebanese descent and campaigned on eliminating financial corruption in the business world. He has worked hard to change federal law regarding the listing of China-based firms on U.S. stock exchanges. He is an advocate to improve children’s education in STEM-related topics and believes policy should be supported to fight global warming.
Congressman Darin LaHood is an incumbent who won his reelection campaign in Illinois’ 18th district under the Republican Party. LaHood is of Lebanese heritage, and served in the Illinois State Senate from 2011-2015 and was sworn into Congress in 2015. He worked to expand economic opportunities, fought to implement policies advocating strong National Security, and supported the agricultural community in the 18th district.
Another reelected congressman is Michigan’s 3rd district representative, Justin Amash. Amash is of Palestinian and Syrian heritage representing the Republican Party. He was elected to his first term in 2010 and has been serving his district ever since. Justin has worked to cut government spending, as he believes it is one of the biggest threats to our economic health. He introduced the Business Cycle Balanced Budget Amendment in order to control government spending and promote economic prosperity. His position can best be summed up by a New York Times quote, where he stated, “I follow a set of principles, I follow the Constitution. And that’s what I base my votes on. Limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty.”
Another congressman who won his reelection campaign is Ralph Abraham. Abraham is of Lebanese descent and represents Louisiana’s 5th district as a Republican. Congressman Abraham cosponsored H.R. 899, advocating that the federal government should not have a role in educating children. Abraham raised $400,000 in grants to support infrastructure and workforce development.
Lebanese-Republican Congressman Garret Graves won his reelection campaign in Louisiana’s 6th district. He has supported this district since 2015 and served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee. He was also a Chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. These committees work to represent Congressman Graves’ priorities to Louisiana, which are safe transportation, hurricane protection for the coastal community, and energy production.
Congressional candidate Mahmoud Mahmoud ran to represent New Jersey’s 8th district but unfortunately lost. He was born in Cairo, Egypt and moved to the United States with his family when he was four. He ran as a third-party candidate for the New Way Forward Party. Mahmoud believed in equality and wanted to represent the diverse constituents of his district. His campaign supported the fight for climate change, LGBTQ+ equality, universal healthcare, and more.