Posted by Joan Hanna on February 04, 2016 in Blog

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2-1-16a.jpegNewman Abuissa, a Syrian American who has resided in Iowa for over 30 years, has made a name for himself – at the Iowa Department of Transportation as a Transportation Engineer, as an advocate for Syrian refugees and smarter U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East, and in statewide and national politics. During Iowa’s caucus on Monday evening, he had a special role to fill. 

As Precinct Captain, Abuissa organized upwards of 460 caucus-goers. With the help of his wife and children, Abuissa personally checked people in, discussed the Democratic candidates with participants, explained the process of caucusing to the group, listened to representatives from each campaign make one final pitch to the crowd and directed attendees where each candidate’s camps were in the small church basement that was used as a caucus site. 

Having been involved with politics for many years, Abuissa has served as an Iowan Delegate in the 2004 DNC Convention in Boston and as a member of the Johnson County Democratic Central Committee in 2012. Before caucusing commenced on Monday night, Abuissa avidly supported former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley for one main reason: O’Malley’s respect for the Arab American community. To emphasize his point, Abuissa stated that O’Malley supported and engaged the Arab American community time and time again – he was the first presidential candidate to call for the U.S. to accept more Syrian refugees, even taking the time to meet with Syrian refugees and listening to their stories, and was the only candidate who came to personally address our community at AAI’s National Leadership Conference this past October. Abuissa also appreciated that O’Malley is down-to-earth, friendly, and possesses good judgment while making decisions.

Abuissa was disappointed, but not surprised, that O’Malley did not reach the 15 percent threshold in his precinct that a candidate had to meet to be viable during the caucus. Since he followed the two other Democratic candidate’s campaigns closely, Abuissa aligned himself with Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters across the room. There were many qualities that pulled him toward the Sanders’ camp. “Sanders speaks his mind, doesn’t change his beliefs to appeal to more voters, and is more authentic,” Abuissa said. He added that he has been impressed with the candidate’s foreign policy outlook, especially when Sanders “skipped Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress in March and his ‘no’ vote regarding the Iraq War almost a decade and a half ago.” Ultimately, the Sanders camp received 269 votes of Abuissa’s precinct, collecting 4 delegates, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took home 194 votes, only securing 3 delegates. 

Abuissa has and will continue to reinvigorate engagement with his fellow Arab Americans. As AAI’s primary National Policy Council member in Iowa, Abuissa was just chosen as an Alternate Delegate for his County’s convention next month. He plans to continue with this momentum throughout 2016 and beyond.