Posted by Joan Hanna on November 16, 2016 in Blog
Michigan native and candidate for the 15th District State Representative race, Abdullah Hammoud, is not a traditional candidate. At the age of 26, he is charismatic, confident, talented and most importantly, driven. “There were many people who didn’t believe in my candidacy. But I think I proved that age doesn’t need to be a qualification to run for office. I have run off of the many personal and professional experiences I’ve had so far and I’m proud of getting Dearborn residents to reconsider what young people can bring to the table and accomplish.” Hammoud’s campaign had two main goals when he set out: to run an effective campaign in terms of strategy and to shatter stereotypes about young people in politics. In the August primary, he attained 38.11% of the vote, beating five other democratic contenders. “Hard work trumps everything else,” Hammoud commented. On November 8th, Hammoud will face Terrance "Rhyno" Gerin, a WWE wrestler and the Republican challenger. The current State Representative for the district, George Darany, cannot run for reelection because of term limits.
Growing up in an immigrant family of self-starters, Hammoud was taught that hard work and education mattered most. His mother, Ghada, immigrated to Michigan from Lebanon in 1974. “My mother dropped out of high school at 16 and had my brother at 17. She worked hard to get her GED, then managed to obtain an accounting degree and opened a small business. She did all of this as she helped raise five kids. That’s inspiration right there.” Hussein, Abdullah’s father, came to Dearborn from Lebanon with his brothers when he was 23 and they struggled to make ends meet. Working various jobs around town, Hussein eventually took a job delivering steel as a truck driver before opening a small grocery store in 2007. Currently, Hussein is the manager for a local supermarket.
Born and bred in Dearborn, Hammoud attended Woodworth Middle School, graduated from Fordson High School and obtained a Bachelor's in biology from the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 2010. At 22 years old, he graduated with a Masters of Public Health in epidemiology and genetics, the youngest in his class at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Throughout college and graduate school, Hammoud worked on environmental and health policy, authoring or co-authoring three publications on health care policy. For the past two years, Hammoud has been a Board Member for Michigan’s League of Conservation Voters and the SAFE Substance Abuse Coalition. Speaking about the way his parents raised Abdullah and his siblings, he said, “There was a lot of positive reinforcement around education, as opposed to negative conditioning. We craved to learn, to be involved in school and extracurricular activities and to do well. Growing up with that mindset, my parents instilled in us that we could do anything if we worked hard enough and were dedicated to learning in and out of the classroom.” Hammoud and his siblings took this sentiment seriously. Before tragically passing away in 2015, Abdullah’s brother, Ali, was a Director at Quicken Loans in Detroit. Abdullah’s other brothers, Youssef and Mohammed, and sister, Laila, are still in school. Youssef is finishing a dual JD, MBA program, Mohammed is a freshman at the University of Michigan, and Laila is a Junior in high school, “all destined”, Hammoud puts it, for “great things.”
Hammoud has run his campaign with poise and passion despite a couple instances of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment. When these incidents occurred, the campaign issued press releases and made sure to document exactly what happened for the safety of his staff. Hammoud remained undeterred, doubling down on his campaign strategy of doors and dollars. “It just adds more fuel to my fire. I work harder. I create more networks. I knock on more doors. I attend more events. I make it my goal to reach more voters.”
It’s worked. Hammoud estimates he has had around 17 points of contact with almost all 15th District voters, including at least 3 times going door to door, 8 mailers and 2 robocalls. “For voters who already supported me, I checked in with them when I went door to door and asked them if there were any new issues they wanted to chat with me about. For others who may have been on the fence, or who did not support me, I wanted to make their decision difficult. By reaching out to them in multiple ways, I wanted to challenge their opinion of me and leave them with the impression that ‘this guy out-worked everyone else’ and to at least reconsider their vote.”
Positioning himself as Dearborn’s candidate, Hammoud has been giving back to the community since he was 10 years old and does not see himself stopping anytime soon. “I’m running for everybody in Dearborn, not just for one community. The issues that matter to the community, matter to me. That’s how I’ve been running my campaign.”