Posted by on August 05, 2013 in Blog

By Matt Haugen
Summer 2013 Intern

Arab Americans continue to take up the mantle of public office, seeking further opportunities to engage politically within their communities. From Ralph Nader, to current congressmen such as Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Justin Amash (R-MI), Arab Americans are no strangers to the national political stage, and that level of engagement and prominence is reflected on local and statewide levels as well. Fueled, in many cases, by strong Arab American constituencies, these political hopefuls are storming into office on all levels. Zead Ramadan, a community leader and small business owner in New York City, is one such example. Ramadan could become the first Arab American elected to the New York City Council.

One of the most recent examples of a strong Arab American constituency and voter engagement is Paterson, New Jersey. Last year, during a democratic primary between Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman, Arab Americans mobilized and came out in record numbers at the polls to help tip the scales in favor of Pascrell. Pascrell had a long-standing relationship with the Arab American community in New Jersey after serving as the mayor of Paterson, but a contrived controversy from outside right-wing bloggers targeted Pascrell’s engagement with the Arab American community. The bloggers employed the unjustifiable label of “anti-Semitism” for no reason other than Pascrell’s utilization of Arabic-language campaign materials. Despite the attempt at voter suppression, Pascrell’s victory was a big win for Arab Americans and showed that the New Jersey Arab American community had come of age politically.

A year later, Arab American political engagement in Paterson is in many ways evinced by the successes of City Council member Andre Sayegh. Early last month, Sayegh was elected Paterson City Council President. After five years on the city council representing the 6th Ward, Sayegh got the nod to lead the council. Sayegh, who has also served four years on the Paterson Board of Education and holds a Master’s in Public Administration from Columbia University, has further been pegged as a possible candidate in the upcoming mayoral election by local news outlets. Sayegh is passionate about his community. Sayegh is constantly engaging with his constituents and community, as his Twitter feed shows, and demonstrates an acute awareness for the needs of the Paterson community.

Sayegh was a vocal proponent of the Arab American vote during the election of Bill Pascrell last year. When Pascrell won, Sayegh proclaimed: “On June 5th a resounding message was sent: we’re Arab, we’re American, and we matter.” Paterson is a model for Arab American political involvement and Sayegh is on the forefront of activity there. We’re eager to see what the future holds for this driven, passionate, and intelligent politician. Stay tuned.

comments powered by Disqus