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Wednesday June 06, 2012

NJ-9 Sets New Standard for Arab American Political Participation

Posted by Omar Tewfik at 3:44 pm

Arab Americans came out in large numbers for yesterday’s Democratic primary between veteran Congressmen Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman. The newly redrawn 9th District of New Jersey pitted the two candidates against each other, with Arab Americans rallying in support of Bill Pascrell. For years Pascrell has courted and made friends of the Arab American community, and in this highly contentious election was paid back in the form of high Arab American voter turnout in his favor.

Ultimately Pascrell emerged the winner of the race by a large margin, revealing that several months of grass roots GOTV and community mobilization made Arab Americans a vital constituency and organizing community for the campaign. Community organizers registered thousands of non-active Arab American voters, and brought a large number of them out to the polls yesterday. Districts 9, 10 and 11 of Paterson’s 6th Ward, predominantly Arab American neighborhoods, saw tremendous turnout. “At this juncture we can dispel the myth that Arab Americans don’t vote,” said Patterson City Councilman Andre Sayegh of the 6th Ward. “On June 5 a resounding message was sent, we’re Arab, we’re American, and we matter.”

Together, the community and Pascrell have come a long way and hurdled many obstacles. “This race will be remembered as a victory for traditional political organizing and a rejection of divisive politics,” stated AAI president Jim Zogby in a press release today. Throughout much of the campaign and in a last push in recent days, efforts to suppress Arab American political involvement have been brought to forefront of the discourse surrounding this race. Through a series of outrageous accusations and unfounded fear-mongering, attempts were made to turn the Arab American involvement in this race into what one individual called an “ethnic brawl” between Arabs and Jews. But in reality, Pascrell garnered a substantial amount of votes in areas with large Jewish populations including Paterson’s third Ward, according to unofficial data. 

In many ways, Arab Americans in New Jersey have set a new precedent for Arab American political involvement in key races. “New Jersey Arab Americans have set a new standard for Arab American voter participation in nationally significant competitive races,” said Zogby. With Pascrell’s win, Arab Americans are setting their sights on a number of key races where voter participation and Arab American populations could make an impact on the national political landscape.

Tagged as Issues, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Islamophobia, State Specific, New Jersey, Posted by Omar Tewfik

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