Abdullah Hammoud: Michigan metropolis elects its first Arab mayor

Dearborn, Michigan – Hundreds erupted in cheers at a neighborhood centre in Dearborn as Abdullah Hammoud’s identify with a checkmark subsequent to it appeared on a large display, confirming that he’ll change into town’s first Arab-American mayor.

Soon after, Hammoud took the stage as the group rushed in direction of the rostrum late on Tuesday with cell telephones raised to doc the second that many described as “historic”.

After his win, the mayor-elect spoke of a “new era” in Dearborn, a metropolis recognized for its giant Arab and Muslim neighborhood.

“To the young girls and boys who have ever been ridiculed for their faith or ethnicity, to those of you who were ever made to feel that their names were unwelcome, and to our parents and to our elders and to others who are humiliated for their broken English and yet still persisted: Today is proof that you are as American as anyone else,” Hammoud stated.

Hammoud, a 31-year-old state consultant, beat former native official Gary Woronchack, profitable 55 p.c of the votes on Tuesday.

He will succeed John B O’Reilly, who didn’t search re-election after being identified with an undisclosed sickness.

When Hammoud takes workplace early subsequent 12 months, he additionally will change into the primary Muslim and the primary particular person of color to guide town of nearly 110,000 residents, one of many largest within the midwestern state of Michigan.

Hammoud’s victory holds nationwide significance, native specialists have stated, because it illustrates that Arab-American communities, by means of elevated political participation, can decisively affect election outcomes and elect their very own representatives to work on points that matter to them.

“We finally have Arab Americans speaking for themselves, being elected to office, representing their communities, gaining recognition for this population, gaining a voice for them,” stated Sally Howell, director of the Center for Arab American Studies on the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Locally, his election additionally breaks “a long legacy of racial segregation” within the metropolis, Howell instructed Al Jazeera.

From 1942 to 1978, Dearborn was run by Orville Hubbard, a mayor who brazenly advocated retaining ethnic communities out of town. And as just lately as 1985, mayoral candidate Michael Guido, who received the election that 12 months, launched a marketing campaign flyer addressing what he known as “the Arab problem”.

Howell, amongst different specialists, stated she estimated that properly greater than half of Dearborn’s inhabitants is of Arab descent, a reality not mirrored by the US Census, which counts the Arab inhabitants as white, resulting in undercounting.

“Finally, we’ve got an Arab American speaking for this community that is identified with Arab Americans,” Howell stated of Hammoud’s victory.

Election Day

Abdul El-Sayed, a public well being professional who ran for Michigan governor in 2018 however fell in need of profitable the Democratic nomination, additionally stated Hammoud’s victory will resonate past Dearborn’s metropolis limits.

“It offers a validation on the notion that for communities like the Arab-American community in Dearborn and enclaves like it, that there is power in self-determination,” he stated, “and that people born and raised in these communities have good ideas, fresh approaches and energy and enthusiasm to inspire the belief … that they can win.”

Abdullah Hammoud speaks to supporters after his election victory in Dearborn, Michigan, November 2 [Ali Harb/Al Jazeera]

Tuesday evening’s outcomes capped months of electioneering in Dearborn. The mayoral marketing campaign began with seven candidates, however solely Hammoud and Woronchack – the highest two vote-getters in an August major – made it to the ultimate spherical.

Earlier within the day, marketing campaign volunteers – some wrapped in blankets to chase away the chilly November temperatures – sat as shut as they legally might to the entrances of polling stations, passing out indicators and flyers.

They shouted out the names of their favorite candidates, urging passersby to vote for them.

Besides the race for mayor, Dearborn additionally elected a brand new seven-member metropolis council and the members of a fee that may draft a brand new constitution for town outlining fundamental native governing rules.

Ayah Aldarwish, a 17-year-old highschool scholar volunteering for Hammoud’s marketing campaign, stated regardless of the winner, town should come collectively to reply to urgent points, together with repeated flooding that has broken hundreds of properties throughout Dearborn.

Aldarwish stated she felt “recognised” by the candidate. “Our voices are being heard,” she instructed Al Jazeera.

‘For all of Dearborn’

Woronchack, a former state consultant and county commissioner, had promoted his personal shut ties to the Arab neighborhood through the marketing campaign, arguing that his years of presidency expertise made him higher fitted to the job than his youthful opponent.

But the marketing campaign took a flip in direction of id politics in its last weeks, with Woronchack slamming Hammoud with out naming him for apparently referring to Arab and Muslim Americans as “our community”.

“I think if you want to be mayor of Dearborn and you refer to our community, you should mean all of our community, not just one group or one section of town,” Woronchak stated in a marketing campaign video launched in September. He additionally began utilizing the slogan “For all of Dearborn”.

Hammoud instructed Al Jazeera final week that id could be pluralistic, and his belonging to the Arab and Muslim communities doesn’t take away from his capability to serve all the metropolis.

Voters fill out their ballots in a predominantly Yemeni-American neighbourhood in Dearborn, Michigan, November 2 [Ali Harb/Al Jazeera]

Howell, the educational, stated the marketing campaign took a “nastier turn” than what many observers had been hoping for. She stated Woronchack’s marketing campaign’s slogan insinuated that his opponent couldn’t characterize all the metropolis, however that “it backfired on him, frankly.”

Woronchack’s marketing campaign didn’t reply to Al Jazeera’s request for remark.

Jamil Khuja, a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the constitution fee, stated it was “odd” that solely candidates from minority communities face questions on their capability to serve all constituents.

He likened the assaults that Hammoud confronted to right-wing theories peddled through the 2008 US presidential elections that Barack Obama can be a president for Black folks solely.

“It’s unfair that the minority candidate always has to convince everybody – ‘I’m going to be for everyone’ – whereas the white candidate doesn’t have to explain anything; it’s just kind of presumed that he’s going to represent everybody,” Khuja instructed Al Jazeera.

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