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Virginia voters celebrate Sam Rasoul victory
By Nijma Darwish
“We did it! I am now the newest member of the Virginia State Legislature and I owe it all to you. Thank you to all of you who believed in me from the beginning,” Rasoul stated in a victory email sent to supporters after winning the special election for Virginia State assembly.
Arab-American Salam ‘Sam’ Rasoul defeated Roanoke Sheriff Octavia Johnson by a nearly 3-to-1 margin in Tuesday’s special election, securing a seat in the 11th District Virginia House of Delegates seat.
“Seven thousand people voted and 5,000 of those votes were for Salam,” gushes his mother, Jenny Rasoul. “He won by like 72%, it was an amazing feeling!”
At his victory reception at the Esquisito Pizza Restaurant in Roanoke, with his friends and family surrounding him, Rasoul held up his cell phone to inform everyone his opponent Republican Octavia Johnson had called to concede the election to him.
Raised from humble beginnings, Rasoul worked two jobs all through high school and college. He attended Roanoke County and Botetourt County Schools before graduating with a degree in Business Administration from Roanoke College in Salem, followed by an MBA in International Business.
“He [Sam] was always very helpful, very attentive and he was very ambitious,” says Jenny about her son growing up. “Whatever he did, it was going toward to making it better for the common person; for the common people like him, around him.”
Before the special election, Rasoul expressed to the Arab-Daily news why it was important to participate in the American-civic duty, “I am living this American dream; I just think we should do everything that we can to make sure that dream is available to everyone that wants to strive for that…If we are not going to be part of the solution then we are really part of the problem.”
Rasoul spent a great deal of his bid for Delegacy on the campaign trail, driving on mostly grass-roots initiatives. Along the way, he gained the support of many and built genuine relationships with people of all backgrounds. With the eye of the tiger, the 32 year old, dusted off past failures to be elected to Congress (2008) and as Roanoke mayor (2012). “If you are honest and work hard, this is proof that good things can happen,” says Rasoul.
“He cares about this city [Roanoke] and he wants to serve this city. It was a very hard run campaign, a grassroots campaign, “adds Jenny. “It was a commons good campaign. It was a really great feeling and a great accomplishment after all these years.”
Rasoul and his beautiful wife, Layaly, reside in the “Star City” and have three children. At 26 years old, he became the youngest congressional candidate to run in the history of the United States. During his recent bid, he continued to persevere focusing on the issues at hand, “I am disgusted with most politics, but I made a choice in 2007 to try to offer a different type of politics, delivering a positive message focusing on issues,” says Rasoul. “I am very humbled by the fact that we proved positive politics can work.”
When asked of what he thought the victory meant as an American-Arab to American-Arabs, he stated, “It shows that a child of immigrants can live the American dream! …And I can help my Roanoke community just like any other person.”
“It’s a major accomplishment for a Palestinian-Muslim,” adds Jenny. “He ran his campaign in a great format, very organized. I think he will make a lot of people, proud. It’s a major step.”
Even after reporting to duty, Rasoul says the win still feels like a dream, “It is an honor to be able to help people through improving public policy… It still feels surreal. I am humbled every single day.”
While in office, Rasoul says he plans to build alliances and help the people in Roanoke and Virginia live better lives through legislation, “I would like to improve the bridge between educators and the business community to ensure we are offering educational opportunities which match the needs of the business community.”
Third day on the job, and Rasoul wasted no time making good on his campaign promises, he co-sponsored two bills; Expanding Pre-K and adding sexual orientation to the anti- discrimination list in the fair housing law.
The young delegate says, if you want to be involved in improving public policy, there is no easy road, “Commit to the long haul, work hard, and be sincere and good things can happen.”
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