Who Won, Who Lost? Midterm Muslim Candidates

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Supporters of Democratic congressional candidate, Ilhan Omar, listens as she speaks during a meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 3, 2018. (Photo: Kerem Yucel / AFP / Getty Images)
Supporters of Democratic congressional candidate, Ilhan Omar, listens as she speaks during a meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on November 3, 2018. (Photo: Kerem Yucel / AFP / Getty Images)

U.S. midterms saw a number of Muslim candidates elected to office, which included wins that broke several glass ceilings when it comes to firsts. The midterms were a heated period in American politics that were seen as a referendum on Trump, which was one reason why many minorities and women of color decided to run for office.

Winners: 2018 US. Midterm Muslim Candidates

  • Rashida Tlaib (Democrat)
    The first Palestinian-American in elected office, Tlaib ran unopposed for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, which guaranteed her the seat. She’s been criticized for her anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views while also being criticized by Muslims for not being vocal enough against Israel. 
  • Ilhan Omar (Democrat)
    A former refugee, Somali-American Ilhan Omar won the Minnesota congressional seat for the 5th District. Ilhan has repeatedly come under fire for views that are antagonistic to American values. In 2017, as a member of Minnesota’s House of Representatives, Ilhan voted against a bill that would allow life insurance companies to deny paying out on policies taken out by terrorists killed while carrying out attacks against Americans. In 2018, even in the wake of increased anti-Semitism, Ilhan Omar stood firmly by a 2012 tweet that reads, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
  • Hodan Hassan (Democrat)
    Winning a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives, the Somali-American single mother was a first-time candidate. Hassan previously worked as a mental health clinician, earning a masters in social work and public health.
  • Keith Ellison (Democrat)
    Keith Ellison was a Minnesota congressman before tapping Ilhan Omar to run for his seat. Meanwhile, Ellison secured the Minnesota attorney general’s seat despite domestic abuse allegations from his ex-partner Karen Monahan. Monahan claimed Ellison verbally, physically and emotionally abused her. The Democratic party chose not to believe Monahan’s claims, despite having just believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in a three-decades old drunken allegation against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Safiya Wazir (Democrat)
    The 27-year-old mother of two is the first former refugee to serve in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives. Wazir and her family fled persecution from the Taliban in Afghanistan and settled in a refugee camp in Uzbekistan. They later moved to the United States. It was here she learned English, worked, went to school and supported her family once her parents fell ill.

Losers: 2018 US. Midterm Muslim Candidates

  • Omar Qudrat (Republican)
    Afghan-American and former Pentagon prosecutor Omar Qudrat lost the 52nd Congressional District. Qudrat was endorsed by the San Diego GOP and would have been an impressive foil to Tlaib and Ilhan Omar in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Ammar Campa-Najjar (Democrat)
    Palestinian-Latin American Ammar Campa-Najjar lost to rival Duncan Hunter in San Diego’s congressional race for the 50th District. Duncan Hunter, who inherited the seat from his father by the same name, is also being indicted for embezzling campaign finances. Najjar, meanwhile, faced opposition for a murky biography that included a terrorist grandfather and a seemingly opportunistic and largely absent Palestinian father.
  • Zahra Suratwala (Democrat)
    The Illinois mother of two ran for DuPage County Board District in a Chicago suburb. It was her first run and she lost by a small margin. Suratwala ran a grassroots campaign that included knocking on doors, talking to moms at soccer practices, and connecting with people at dinners and coffee shops.
  • Abdelnasser Rashid (Democrat)
    Illinois saw another tight race in Cook County. The win went to opponent Sean Morrison by just a couple thousand votes, giving him the 17th District seat on the Cook County Board. Rashid, a Harvard graduate, had also aligned with Bernie Sanders’ “Our Revolution.”

This list doesn’t include the many more Muslim candidates who didn’t make it to the ballot. Win or lose, the record number of people of color from different backgrounds, including Latino and Native American women, has shifted the imagination for many American citizens.

In the future, we can expect more minorities to step into more state and local races. Hopefully we will see more Republican Muslims run for office as a way to balance what will likely be hard leftist politics in the years to come from Muslim Democratic candidates, most of whom do not recognize Israel. 

What are your thoughts about the winners and losers? Did you see any other candidates and races in your district you want to highlight? Contact us by clicking below and share your opinions!


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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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