Shallal says door not closed to another political run for office
By Ray Hanania
Washington D.C. businessman and activist Anas “Andy” Shallal said he is not adverse to running for office again, saying his recent run for mayor of Washington D.C. was “successful” even though he failed to win the nomination of the Democratic Party in his primary bid in April.
Shallal, the well-known owner of the popular entertainment coffee shop Busboys & Poets in Washington D.C., said he is encouraged by his experience seeking the nomination for mayor in the Democratic Primary on April 1, 2014.
Incumbent Democratic Mayor Vincent Gray lost the Democratic nomination to fellow Democrat Muriel Bowser who will face-off against two independent candidates in the November 4, 2014 General Election. Shallal was among the eight candidates who sought the nomination in the Democratic Primary in the predominantly Democratic city. Bowser is expected to easily win the election.
But many felt that Shallal helped not only expand the topics and issues discussed and debated int he election, he also served as a role model for other American Arabs to run for public office. Shallal is of Iraqi heritage. And Shallal said he has not ruled out running for another public elective political office.
“I heard it from so many people who said you just opened doors for so many other people who said you just opened doors for so many other people, young people getting involved in politics suddenly see there is a possibility … it does make a difference,” Shallal said during an appearance on Talk of the Town Radio show in Chicago Friday August 22 on WCEV 1450 AM Radio and simulcast live on www.YahalaVoice.com radio.
“You break that glass ceiling. You may not win the first time, or you may never win. But it certainly opens up the opportunity for others to run and potentially to win. That was the whole idea of running to get other people involved in the process. To teach out community that in this country that is what it takes to affect change. It’s not OK just look at the TV and scream at reporters. That doesn’t get results. What gets results is to get politically engaged and politically involved.”
Shallal said running for public office is not the only way to have an impact in our American society. He said being an activist or advocating for specific issues are important, but added that being a political candidate for public office is just as important. He said he hopes more American Arabs run in their communities also.
“I have been an activist for most of my adult life, I have always had a distaste for politics. I thought of politics as being something I didn’t want to become involved in, something dirty, something there. But then you stop and think that you always elect people we deserve. And I felt we deserve better,” Shallal said.
Shallal said that he was unfairly cast in the election always being identified as being “Iraqi born” by the media and political foes.
“A lot of people were actually bringing up the issue of being Arab. They would say Iraqi Born. Every time there was mention of my name it would start out as Iraqi born candidate,” Shallal said.
“We challenged them on that, not there is anything wrong with being Iraqi born but why is that necessary in the conversation. If you are going to say where I was born, tell me where everyone was born, too.”
Shallal said that by running for public office, American Arabs benefit the community and he encouraged other American Arabs to run and become involved in the political system.
Shallal said that Washington D.C. faces the same issues that most other major American cities face, but he said he did not feel the candidates were addressing those issues.
“I have been in the city for a long time. I love the city, a city that has so much more potential. A global city and has so many opportunities to connect with other parts of the world … we are often mired with corruption and scandal and we never really move forward on very important things that we should move forward on, such as on the homeless crisis we have, schools that are not doing so well, housing that is out of control as far as costs,” Shallal said.
“So politicians I knew who were running for office were not really speaking on those issues. I wanted to stop standing on the sidelines and criticizing those in office and wanted to run for office and be part of the solution instead of just complain.”
Shallal said his candidacy “changed the conversation” and forced the elected officials to begin discussing issues that he felt were important.
“No doubt the conversation changed when I was in the room, when I was running. We had over 50 debates throughout the campaign. The tenor of the debates and the conversation completely changed because I brought up issues none of the other politicians would dare to bring up … issues of race, issues of poverty … all those issues that I think could really make this city great. (My candidacy) certainly changed the debate,” Shallal said.
“Even after the primary when I didn’t win the primary, that conversation has continued.”
Shallal hasn’t ruled out another candidacy, although he has not made any decisions.
“The process did not turn me off. It was a great experience. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I thought I made a good showing. I made new connections and new contacts and I think the opportunity to run again is there for sure,” Shallal said.
To hear the complete radio interview, click here. All episodes of Talk of the Town and The Arab Daily News podcasts are available for download on iTunes.
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