Posted on January 04, 2011 in Arab American Institute

The presidential election of 2008 has been described by many as the most important of our lifetimes. This year, Arab Americans made their voices heard loud and clear. We waved our signs at rallies, raised funds for local and national candidates, participated in the Conventions, ran for office, and worked on the campaigns. We were counted. We were active. We voted. We volunteered.

AAI members have been sending in election stories… click on the map to read about what Arab Americans did around the country in 2008.

Arab American candidates who won their races appear in blue.


State Senator Paula Aboud (D-28th District)

U.S. Representative Darrell Issa (R-49th District)

State Representative Joseph Rice (D-38th District)

State Representative William Hamzy (R-78th District)

State Representative Selim Noujaim (R-74th District)

Ronald and Nancy Salem
Ronald and Nancy Salem, Arab American Republicans, were strong supporters of Senator John McCain’s campaign. They not only admired McCain’s service to the country, they felt he was the candidate most fit to lead. To emphasize and enhance their support, Ronald and Nancy attended McCain events within Florida where John McCain has won the Florida primary. Edna and Ronald were two of many McCain supporters that contributed to a McCain victory. Where the AAI is always working hard to encourage Arab American to go vote, Ronald and Nancy are certainly fine examples of Arab Americans becoming civically and politically engaged.

Miriam Zayed

Miriam Zayed is a member of the Arab American Democratic Club in Orland Park, IL. Every election cycle the AADC distributes a list of candidates they endorse to as many as 50,000 Arab Americans living in Illinois. This presidential election the club openly endorsed Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy. For the Super Tuesday primary Ms. Zayed worked at a polling sight directly across from the Orland Park Mosque. Describing the mosque as the heart of Orland’s South Side, Miriam and the AADC have contributed to the betterment of her state by encouraging Arab American to be involved in the political process.
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Governor Mitch Daniels (R)

U.S. Representative Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-7th District)

State Senator Steven Baddour (D-3rd District)

Michael Chami
Michael is a junior student at the University of Michigan-Dearborn who was involved with many of the local races in Dearborn. He canvassed and passed out literature for Amy Blackburn and Mary Lane’s campaigns in their re-election bids for their seats on the school board.He also campaigned for 19th Circuit Court Judge Candace Abbat. Michael says he gave his time and effort because “Candace Abbat raised in Dearborn, she has been representing families, and bringing a new fresh face to the court”. He also added that she represented the Arab American Community very well. On election day Michael distributed campaign literature for Candace Abbat at a polling location in East Dearborn from when polls opened until they closed! Michael believes “If you want to help, you have to start at the local level”. Michael is a Democratic Precinct Delegate of Dearborn.

Jumana Judeh
Jumana Judeh, a democrat from Dearborn Michigan ran to be a delegate at the Democratic National Convention. While she is eagerly expressed support for her candidate, Jumana also expressed the fact that many Michigan voters felt frustrated and confused due to the fact that most party candidates did not participate in the state’s primary race. Earlier this year Michigan was stripped of all its delegates to the national convention for scheduling an early presidential primary. While many democrats decided to vote as “uncommitted,” Jumana, with a majority of other candidates supported Hillary for “having the guts” to stay on the ballot. Where party rules could have prevented her from voting, Jumana continued to participate in choosing her party’s presidential candidate.

Judge David Allen (3rd Circuit, Criminal Division)

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard (R)

Judge Charlene Mekled Elder (3rd Circuit, Family Division)

Rashida Tlaib for State Representative (D-12th District)

Justin Amash for State Representative (D-72nd District)
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New Hampshire
State Representative Benjamin Baroody (D-13th District)

Nick Kahl for State Representative (D-49th District)

State Representative Camille "Bud" George (D-74th District)

Rhode Island
State Senator Hanna Gallo (D-27th District)

State Senator Paul Jabbour (D-5th District)

South Carolina
State Senator Vincent Shaheen (D-27th District)

South Dakota
State Senator Gene Abdallah (R-10th District)

Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi describes her campaign season this election cycle as a night and day experience. Strongly supporting the Obama campaign, Naomi has written letters to the editors of major and local newspapers all over the state of Texas listing the reason why she and other Texans support Obama. Not only did Naomi attend a Caroline Kennedy endorsement event, but also took the initiative and formed several fundraising events to raise money for the Obama campaign.
Rita Stephan
Rita is a very involved Arab American from Travis County Texas. Working as a Precinct Chair for the Obama campaign, Rita’s two primary duties were to help arrange housing for volunteers, and to attend training sessions to learn how her state’s primary system works. Part of her duties as Precinct Chair included providing housing for a journalist from Denmark following the Obama campaign. Rita served as the Precinct Chair at her precinct convention. Rita also worked directly with the Precinct Captain to fulfill the needs of those from her community by providing Travis County residents with campaign supplies and answers to questions regarding early voting.

State Representative Mark Strama (D-50th District)
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State Representative Bill Aswad (D-Chittenden-3-1 District)

Dr.  Hacene Belkacem
Dr. Belkacem spent the campaign working as a canvasser in Prince William County and as a poll watcher on Election Day for the Democratic Party. He spent time at his mosque reminding people to vote. His wife recently became a U.S Citizen and put her new found voting rights to use casting her first ballot in a United States election. Dr. Belkacem also volunteered his time to voter education programs and making sure that Muslim and Arab Americans understand their civil rights when it comes to voting.
Marwan Burgan
Marwan is an AAI NPC member and as part of his campaign efforts he organized a nightly phone bank in 2 offices for the Obama campaign with approximately 8 volunteers making calls nightly. Marwan Burgan is also had the honor of serving as the State Director for Arab American Outreach for Obama.
David-Imad Ramadan
David has been a Republican activist at both a grassroots and national level since he moved to Washington, DC in 1989. Over the last twenty years, he has worked on every presidential campaign on the Republican side and has been involved in several gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns. He is currently the Precinct Captain and Outreach Chair for Loudoun County Republicans, and in 2008, he was actively involved with the Republican Party of Virginia, the Arab American Coalition for McCain, and the Lebanese American Coalition for McCain. “Every vote counts!” Ramadan emphasized earlier this summer. “And everyone should be involved; we have a civic duty to be involved in politics and we have a social and cultural duty to our ancestry to vote. Arab Americans can talk to both sides of the aisles about issues that are 100% local or that affect us nationally. If we sit at home on Election Day, we can blame nobody but ourselves.”

Dr. Jamil Shami
Although Dr. Shami was heavily involved with Arab Americans for McCain and made financial contributions to the campaign, he feels that Obama is a phenomenon and has positive feelings about the new presidency. For the past three months Dr. Shami has been interviewed on a daily basis by the press and was asked to act as a commentator for BBC news on the night of the election.

Majid Al-Bahadli

Majid Al-Bahadi, Obama delegate from Washington State, danced on the floor of the Democratic National Convention, cheered on by members of his state’s delegation, this past August. How he came to be there, the only Iraqi delegate on the floor, is an inspiration to us all.

Born and raised in Iraq, the budding political activist knew the risks of opposing Saddam’s regime: in 1980, his uncle and cousins, and many other family members, were executed for it. When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1991, Majid heeded the United States’ call to rise up against him. But when the U.S. withdrew and power was restored to the dictator, Majid’s life was at risk. He slipped through the border checkpoints and surrendered to an American soldier. For nearly five years, he lived in a prisoner of war camp in the Saudi desert. Finally, a United Nations delegation entered the camp and conducted the interviews that would lead to Majid’s release as a political refugee in 1995, and later to his naturalization as an American citizen. There were some difficult years between his arrival in the U.S. and the day he became a citizen in 2000-although politics is his passion, he lay low for fear that his actions might jeopardize his impending naturalization. Today, he works fearlessly to get out the vote in his adopted Seattle, Washington. He is a warm and gracious person whose enthusiasm for American politics is inspirational and infectious. He won his position as delegate in a landslide vote, with 87% in support of his bid to travel to Colorado.

West Virginia
U.S. Representative Nick Rahall II (D-3rd District)

Delegate John Ellem (R-10th District)
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