Advertisement Close

Meet the Arab Americans Running for Office in 2020

posted on: Feb 19, 2020

By Heba Mohammad/Arab America Contributing Writer

The last two years have seen unprecedented involvement from Arab Americans who want to run for office. In 2018, over 125 Arab Americans ran for office, and 2019 saw over 40 Arab Americans throw their hats into the ring of local, state, and federal level elections. The 2020 election cycle is going to have a major impact on the country as a whole, and several Arab Americans are planning to take part in that impact. From congress to the county commission, California to Florida, 33 Arab Americans have already filed to run for office, with dozens more expected throughout the year. Meet some of the candidates here.

Congressional Candidates

Ammar Campa-Najjar, California-50

Background: Second congressional campaign for CA-50; first ran in 2018.

Experience: White House Staffer, Executive Office of the President; Communications and Marketing Director, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Office of Public Affairs for the Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor; small business owner.

Top Issues: Childcare, Jobs, Education, Small Business, National Debt, and more.

Darrell Issa, California-50

Background: Former Representative of CA-49.

Experience: Former Chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee; Congressman in CA-49 & CA-48 from 2001-2019.

Top Issues: Border & Immigration, Sanctuary Cities, Impeachment, Jobs & Trade, Life, and more.

Charlie Crist, Florida-13

Background: Incumbent, first elected to Congress in 2016.

Experience: Governor of Florida (2007-2011); Attorney General of Florida (2003-2007); Education Commissioner of Florida (2001-2003); Florida State Senator, 20th District (1992-1998).

Top Issues: Jobs, Wages, Protecting Beaches, Honoring Military Service People & Veterans, Education, and more.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Florida-26

Background: Incumbent, first elected to Congress in 2018.

Experience: Associate Dean at the Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine; former Development Director at FIU; worked at various non-profits like Hope Center, Zoo Miami Foundation, and the Coral Restoration Foundation.

Top Issues: Healthcare, Economy, Education, Immigration, Environment, and more.

Donna Shalala, Florida-27

Background: Incumbent, first elected to Congress in 2018.

Experience: Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (Carter Administration); U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (Clinton Administration)

Top Issues: Climate Change; Jobs & the Economy; Immigration, Education, Healthcare, and more.

Newman Abuissa, Iowa-2

Background: First-time congressional candidate.

Experience: Iowa Department of Transportation engineer of 25 years; Member of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights; Chair of the International Affairs Sub-Committee of the Platform Committee, Iowa Democratic Party.

Top Issues: Foreign Policy, Healthcare, Infrastructure, Education, and Iowa’s Economy.

Rush Darwish, Illinois-3

Background: First-time congressional candidate.

Experience: Member of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Transportation & Infrastructure transition committee; small business owner; former news anchor and sports broadcaster.

Top Issues: Economy/Job Creation, Healthcare, Education, Immigration, Women’s Issues, and more.

Darin LaHood, Illinois-18

Background: Incumbent, first elected to Congress in a 2015 special election.

Experience: Illinois State Senator (2011-2015); former Assistant U.S. Attorney, Nevada District.

Top Issues: Agriculture, Healthcare, Jobs, National Security, and Federal Spending.

Garret Graves, Louisiana-6

Background: Incumbent, first elected to Congress in 2014.

Experience: Former Chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority;

Top Issues: Flood Protection, Infrastructure, Taxes & Jobs, and more.

Ihssane Leckey, Massachusetts-4

Background: First-time congressional candidate.

Experience: Federal Reserve special examiner; social and racial justice advocate.

Top Issues: Universal Family Care, Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and more.

Jamie Zahlaway Belsito, Massachusetts-6

Background: First-time congressional candidate.

Experience: Founder, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance; Commissioner, Ellen Story Commission on Postpartum Depression; Member, North Shore Postpartum Depression Task Force; Founder of Effie’s Grace, LLC.

Top Issues: Healthcare, Education, Opioid Epidemic, Economy, Infrastructure, and more.

Rashida Tlaib, Michigan-13

Background: Incumbent, first elected to Congress in 2018.

Experience: Michigan House of Representatives (2009-2014); Attorney.

Top Issues: Economic Justice, Healthcare, Environmental Protections, Education, and Equal Rights for All.

Dalia Al-Aqidi, Minnesota-5

Background: First-time congressional candidate.

Experience: Senior international political talk show host; former White House reporter; formerly with Multi-National Security Transition Command in Baghdad.

Top Issues: Fighting Terrorism.

Ilhan Omar, Minnesota-5

Background: Incumbent, first elected to Congress in 2018.

Experience: Minnesota House of Representatives (2016-2018); former Senior Policy Aide for a Minneapolis City Council Member.

Top Issues: Education, Healthcare, Economic Justice, Immigration, Environmental Justice, and more.

Mike Ghassali, New Jersey-5

Background: First-time congressional candidate.

Experience: Two-term Montvale, NJ Mayor (2016-present); Montvale City Councillor (2012-2016).

Top Issues: Border Security, Taxes, Ending Sanctuary Cities, Military Funding, and Protecting the Second Amendment.

Lulu Seikaly, Texas-3

Background: First-time congressional candidate.

Experience: Attorney in employment and labor law; advocate.

Top Issues: Healthcare, Education, Economy, Democracy, Women’s Health & Reproductive Rights, and more.

Pete Khalil, Washington-3

Background: First-time congressional candidate.

Experience: Small business owner of Northwest Mediation; former Wall Street securities lawyer.

Top Issues: Education, Affordable Housing, Healthcare, Veterans, Broadband Internet, and more.

State & Local Candidates to Watch

Arguably, some of the most impact policy changes happen at the local level. Serving in a local or state office gives elected officials the opportunity to allocate funds, make decisions about schools, roads, transportation, etc. that affect the community’s daily experiences, and so much more. The following candidates are just a handful of those running for local office to change the lives of their neighbors on a personal level.

State and Local Candidates

Athena Salman, Arizona House of Representatives

Background: Incumbent, first elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2016.

Experience: Minority Whip of the Arizona House of Representatives.

Top Issues: Education, Jobs & Economy, Environmental Protection, Religious Freedom, Criminal Justice Reform, Women’s Rights, and more.

Jonathan Abboud, California State Assembly, District 37

Background: First-time candidate for state assembly.

Experience: Santa Barbara Community College Trustee (2014-present).

Top Issues: Education, Climate Change, Democracy, Healthcare, Affordable Housing, and more.

Noor Fawzy, Coral Springs City Commission, Florida

Background: First-time candidate.

Experience: Attorney; clerked for the Office of the County Attorney of Broward County; helped draft the voter-approved Broward County Penny for Transportation surtax amendment; former AmeriCorps volunteer.

Top Issues: Violence Prevention, Taxes, Youth Development, and more.

Tamer Abouzeid, Illinois State Senate, District 13

Background: First-time candidate.

Experience: Investigator at the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

Top Issues: Ending Corruption, Affordable Housing, Jobs, Education, Environmental Protection, and more.

Reem Subei, Ohio State Senate, District 2

Background: First-time candidate.

Experience: Legal aid attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc.

Top Issues: Healthcare, Environmental Protection, Economic Empowerment, Education, Transportation, and more.

Every candidate is doing the hard work of putting together their platform, responding to community needs, raising money, recruiting volunteers, and standing up for what they believe is right. No candidate can do all this work without support from their communities, and the same goes for these candidates. You are encouraged to find a local candidate in your community that you align with to provide support to donate money, volunteer, feed them, and more! The options for supporting candidates are endless, and you’ll feel proud of the contributions you made when they win. And who knows…you may even become inspired to run next time!

A full list of Arab Americans running for office in 2020 is available online. If you notice any candidates missing from the list, please contact Heba Mohammad at

Heba Mohammad is a National Field Coordinator at the Arab American Institute.
Check out our Blog here!