Election day in California for two Arab congressional candidates
Two Arab Americans are vying for nominations for Congress today in California, Sam Jammal in the 39th Congressional District and Palestinian American Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is running for Congress in the 50th District which includes San Diego. Congressman Darrell Issa, whose father is Maronite Lebanese, announced he will retire after representing the 49th district since winning in November 2002.
UPDATE (Wednesday June 6, 2018): Ammar Campa-Najjar appears headed to represent the Democratic Party in November in the 50th California District while Sam Jammal has fallen short of the vote in the 39th District.
Unofficial returns show Sam Jammal trailing in this contest, a “Top Two” Open primary election , meaning Republicans and Democrats run in the same race together and the top two contenders will face-off in November. Here’s the unofficial tally for the 39th District:
Republican Young Kim: 17,129
Democrat Gil Cisneros: 13,604
Republican Phil Liberatore: 10,157
Democrat Andy Thorburn: 6,535
Republican Shawn Nelson: 5,429
Republican Bob Huff: 4,543
Democrat Sam Jammal: 3,990
Democrat Mai Khanh-Tran: 3,576 end
But in the 50th District, Ammar Campa-Najjar appears to be in position to represent the Democratic Party in the November election with Republican Duncan Hunter holding a strong lead.
Republican Duncan Hunter 42,694
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar 14,262
Republican Bill Wells 11,491
Democrat Josh Butner 11,210
Democrat Patrick Malloy 5,221
Republican S. Sayed 1,813
Independent Richard Kahle 967
In California’s system the top two candidates with the highest votes in the primary will face-off in the November election. That means candidates from the same party could face-off.
Two Arab Americans will face voters today in California’s 39th and 50th Congressional Districts in a bid to help maintain a strong Arab American presence in the overwhelmingly anti-Arab U.S. Congress.
They are Sam Jammal in the 39th Congressional District and Palestinian American Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is running for Congress in the 50th District which includes San Diego.
Longtime Arab American Congressman Darrell Issa, whose father is Maronite Lebanese, announced he will retire after representing the 49th district since winning in November 2002. There are only a few Arab American members serving in the U.S. Congress but keeping that balance stable could be a challenge.
Three Arab American congressmen have left or retired from office leaving four incumbents. Six more are running in five districts, including one race where two Arab Americans could face off representing both the Republican and Democratic parties. But the whisper of the Arab voice in Congress could disappear if not enough effort is made to help them
Sam Jammal, a longtime Democrat faces a tough contest in the predominantly Republican 39thDistrict just southeast of Los Angeles. But he has a shot as the Republican incumbent, Ed Royce, who represented the district since 1993, is retiring.
Jammal has close ties to President Barack Obama, having worked on his campaign. During the Obama administration he served as a Legislative Counsel in the U.S. Senate where he focused on civil rights, labor and national security issues. Jammal was later appointed by Obama to serve at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Much attention has been focused recently on the Democratic candidacy of Palestinian American Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is running for Congress in the 50th District which includes San Diego.
Campa-Najjar is the grandson of Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar (aka Abu Yusuf) who as a senior member of Black September directed the 1972 Munich Olympic assault which took the lives of 11 Israeli athletes.
Although there never was a trial, Israel’s Mossad murdered Yusuf al-Najjar and his wife during a terrorist assault in Beirut. Campa-Najjar’s father, Yasser Najjar, was orphaned and eventually fled to the United States where Ammar Campa-Najjar was raised.
Campa-Najjar has not shied away from the issue, which was raised by the Israeli media last week, declaring he supports peace based on compromise. In response to question about his grandfather’s role in the Olympic attacks, Ammar Campa-Najja said, “There is never a justification for killing innocent civilians.”
Campa-Najjar faces two other Democrats, including a former Navy Seal, in the heavily Republican District that has been represented for many years by incumbent Congressman Duncan D. Hunter. Hunter, the son of the former congressman representing the district, is vulnerable, though. He has been accused of campaign fund irregularities.
Jammal released this Get Out the Vote Message on Monday night before primary election day today:
Tomorrow is election day and the culmination of our primary campaign, which is just the first step to flipping California’s 39th Congressional District. Since I announced last July, my campaign for Congress has been rooted in improving our community and country.
My campaign was never just about Donald Trump, nor was it just about Ed Royce. While both need to go and have deeply divided our nation, I entered this race so we can have new leadership that reflects our community and will fight for us. Having grown up in this richly diverse community, I know we have more in common than what divides us. My mother immigrated from South America and my father immigrated from the Middle East with little but they were able to pursue the American Dream, working hard and sacrificing so that my siblings and I could have better opportunities. Their effort and life lessons gave me a chance to go to college and law school, work in the Obama Administration, and help create jobs in the emerging solar economy with SolarCity and Tesla.
I believe in an America where everyone should have the opportunity to maximize their potential. I believe in an America where the next generation is given the educational foundation to help make our country better. That’s the welcoming and inclusive America I know and believe we still are.
But, the opportunity to get ahead is slipping away for too many of us. Families are being crippled by out-of-pocket health care costs. Seniors are being squeezed by higher costs of living. And millennials face years of student debt and a still challenging job market. This is on top of a gun violence epidemic that threatens our safety.
Instead of dividing our communities by scapegoating immigrants for the challenges we face, our leaders should be focused on those pocketbook issues that give hope — owning a home where you grew up, starting a small business, not living in fear of losing health care and being able to receive the best education in the world that prepares you for the jobs of the future.
We need more than words and promises – we need results. As the only Democrat with experience in Congress and the Obama Administration and the only Democrat who grew up in our community, I am ready on day one to be our community’s advocate.
If you can help out in our final push tomorrow sign up here to volunteer and make a donation here.
Thank you for your support, encouragement and friendship through this primary campaign.
Follow Sam On Social Media:
@samjammal on Twitter
@sam.jammal on Instagram
@Sam4Congress on Facebook
Campa-Najjar is also working hard to get out the vote and his campaign signs are popping up all over the 50th Congressional District in California.
Check out his Facebook Page and show support at: www.facebook.com/Najjar1989
For an overview of the Arab American candidates running for congressional offices this year, click this link to read this story.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
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