Democrats, Republican Candidates Seek Support of Arab Americans
Most of the Democratic and Republican candidates running for school board, local and state offices in November attended the annual candidates night sponsored by Arab Americans of Fairfax County.
An estimated 400 people gathered Sunday night in a Tysons Corner hotel at the 23rd Arab Americans candidate night. The gathering attracted a dazzling list of Fairfax politicians and symbolized the growing influence of Arabs in Fairfax politics.
The evening was a snapshot of the new Fairfax politics: The audience: Arab Americans who are small business men and women with money to give to political campaigns.
All were served by waiters and waitresses who were overwhelmingly Latino. Latinos are now the second largest minority group Fairfax. Asians are the largest.
Tim Kaine, a former Viriginia governor and now the Democratic candidate for U. S. Senate was obviously an old friend to this community. He received the loudest and most prolonged applause of the evening.
His opponent George Allen, also a former governor, who lost the Senate race six years ago, to Sen. Jim Webb did not attend.
Others in attendance, Howie Lind, chair of the 10th Congressional District GOP. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, (D- Va) sent his greetings and congratulatons by videotape.
McLean candidates who attended: Democrats- Dranesville Supervisor John Foust, incumbent Dranesville school board member Jane Strauss and her Republican challenger Louise Epstein.
State Candidates: Democrats-Sen. Janet Howell, Del. Bob Brink, Del. Mark Keam, 31st state senate candidate Barbara Favola, 34th House district candidate Pamela Danner.
Absent McLean candidates: Republicans Caren Merrick, who is running against Favola; incumbent Barbara Comstock, who is running against Danner; Dennis Husch who is challenging Foust.
“We are a young immigrant community” who can provide the margin for victory in important districts, said Nora Burgan, master of ceremonies.
Janet Howell credited Arab Americans with giving her that margin for victory in her first election.
Fairfax County has a population of more than 1 million. The Arab population is nearly 20,000 making them one of the small ethnic communities in the county. For example there are more than 100,000 Germans and Irish and nearly 60,000 Italians.
“The Arab American community is starting to coalse and become a voting bloc in Northern Virginia,” said Nadia Itraish, a member of the coordinating committee. “We want to be perceived as a part of a politically active community and a voting bloc.”
Fozan Ghannam, of Annandale, who owns an accounting firm said he was attending because ,”It’s good to know who is running and they are about. As a citizen of this community hae issues like everyone else. It’s good for them to see our faces. . . They need to know that every voice counts so they can’t just push us off to the side. They need to know we are involved in politics.”