Muslims lose in backlash in Suburban Chicago elections
Two Muslim candidates who had strong political backing lost their bids for election on Tuesday in Suburban Chicago contests. Dave Shalabi, who was appointed to a position on a local school board two years ago, lost his bid to remain on the influential school board. Bahira Karim fails in bid in Worth.
By Ray Hanania
(Vote results updated with final unofficial tallies) Two Muslim candidates who many believed would easily win election to suburban Chicago elective positions fell short of the vote needed to win their offices.
Realtor David Shalabi who was appointed to a vacancy on the influential Orland Park District 135 Elementary School District lost his bid to remain on the board while new candidate Bahira Karim failed in a bid to win a seat on the Village of Worth Board.
Both Orland Park and Worth are suburbs just southwest of Chicago and have large Muslim and Arab populations.
Shalabi was backed by Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin. McLaughlin was behind Shalabi’s appointment to the District 135 board in June 2015 and the two appeared together often in public. But McLaughlin, who served as mayor for 23 years, also was defeated in his re-election bid by a businessman angry with McLaughlin’s move to increase his own salary from $40,000 a year to $150,000 a year, resulting in a massive pension of $110,000 and angering voters.
It is possible that part of Shalabi’s loss was the result of McLaughlin’s defeat, but three other running mates with Shalabi easily won their elections.
Shalabi ran on a slate of four candidates backed by McLaughlin including Laura Berry, Mike Maratea and Devin Hodge. Sandra Kulak, an independent, came from behind and took the fourth seat.
A letter signed by officials of the Orland Prayer Center (Orland Mosque) and by Dave Shalabi under the Arabic name Dahoud Shalabi, was sent to voters in Orland Park clearly identifying Shalabi as a “Muslim.” The letter was distributed online and circulated at polling places.
UPDATE: In the final unofficial vote tally, Shalabi ran 5th place with only 5,213 votes (17.08 percent). The top four candidates that were elected to the District 135 election were Laura Berry with 6,857 votes or 22.46 percent, Sandra Kulak an independent that challenged the slate with Shalabi received 6,505 votes or 21.31 percent of the vote, Mike Maratea with 6,020 votes or 19.72 percent of the vote, and Devin Hodge with 5,930 votes or 19.43 percent of the vote.
Voters in this election cast four votes for four candidates from the five choices.
In the final unofficial vote tally from the Cook County Board of Elections, Bahira Karim ran fourth in a race for three seats. Karim received 713 votes or 16.67 percent, and the winners were Brad Urban with 1,245 votes or 29.11 percent of the vote, Richard Dziedzic with 1,164 votes or 27.22 percent of the vote, and Tedd Muersch Jr., with 1,155 votes or 27 percent of the votes.
Voters in this election cast three votes for three candidates from the four choices.