|Salamey thanks supporters after his victory during a celebration at Greenfield Manor.|
DEARBORN — A crowd of close to 200 people erupted in cheers and applause on Tuesday evening at Greenfield Manor in Dearborn after 19th District Court Judge candidate Sam Salamey announced to his supporters that he came in first place during the primary elections, placing ahead of runner-up Richard Wygonik. The two candidates will now be advancing to the general elections on November 6th, where they will square off for the position.
But the road to this victory wasn't an easy one for Salamey's campaign. His team says they started getting the word out over six months ago, and after reaching out to the community and doing a lot of ground work, they were able to get their message across as the Primary drew closer. It has been widely noted that in previous elections, the Arab American community wasn't the strongest group when it came to voting. But Salamey's campaign, which was endorsed by AAPAC, says they decided to give those people who wouldn't typically vote that extra push.
"We were doing a lot of door to door knocking, asking people if they were registered to vote and helping them get registered. A lot of people just needed guidance and help," stated Rawan Elkhamissi, Salamey's Secretary of four years.
Whether the Arab American community would come out to vote during the day was not a certainty for Salamey and his campaigners at first. Salamey tells us that early on in the day, they were not pleased with the turn out, but as the evening came around, larger crowds began coming out to the polls to vote, thanks in large part to Salamey's campaigners who went door to door knocking during the day.
While approximately 200 campaigners covered the 50 precincts in the city, Renee Hadi, a Salamey campaigner, was one of the many individuals who went knocking on residents doors. Hadi says reminding people to go out to vote really paid off.
"I was walking up and down those streets all afternoon long, getting people out of their houses and to the polls. I even babysat one ladies kids while she ran down the street to vote," stated Hadi, who says she covered the Lowery school area. "We were telling people that every vote counted. We really didn't leave any territories unmarked," Hadi told us before the results came in.
Salamey and his campaigners, most of who'm were fasting during the day, enjoyed their iftar as they anxiously awaited for the results. A rush of excitement took over the crowd at Greenfield Manor as the results began coming in around 10:00 p.m. With less than 30 percent of the votes counted during the first results update, it became clear that Salamey was the favorite in the race, more than doubling the amount of votes compared to his opponents at that point. But despite the early head start, many sill questioned whether Salamey would still come in first place because the absentee ballots, mostly filled out by the elderly, had not yet been counted.
Those doubts however were quickly swept under the rug, as the final results, which came in less than an hour later showed Salamey placing in first place. With 5,344 votes, Salamey had 39.6% of the share. Wygonik then followed him in Second place with 4,504 votes, taking 33.3%. Those results meant that candidate Candyce Abbatt, who placed over 1,800 votes below Salamey and about 1,000 votes below Wygonik, would not be advancing to the general election.
|Salamey with his supporters at the election night.|
But despite many looking at Salamey's campaign as a victory for the Arab American community, others have pointed out that his support went beyond that. Two campaigners who were at the Whitmore Bolles precinct on the west side of the city were still confident that Salamey did pretty well in those areas, despite the smaller number of Arab Americans there.
"There was only two Arabs that I saw come out at my precinct, but we still think he did pretty well with the overall votes over there," stated Sarah Makled, a campaigner at Whitmore Bolles.
Among those who showed up to support Salamey at Greenfield Manor was Fay Beydoun, Executive Director of the American-Arab Chamber of Commerce. Beydoun says that the Arab support for Salamey could've been a little better, but she's confident that his support will only grow come November.
"Sam Salamey ran a wonderful campaign and we wish him the best of luck. A lot of the Arab community goes on vacation during the summer, so we are expecting even greater participation from them in the November elections," Beydoun stated.
Salamey thanked his supporters, acknowledging the long road it took the campaign to get to this point.
"I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for all your efforts on behalf of my campaign. I'm overwhelmed with all of this support. We believe we did a wonderful job of educating our community about the importance of exercising your rights to vote. This whole effort by the entire campaign...everyone really gave it their 150 percent. We have no regrets, for we have done everything that we thought was necessary for us to wage a successful campaign," Salamey stated.
If Salamey wins the November elections, it will mark the first time that an Arab American will hold a judge position in the city of Dearborn, which all the more makes his Primary win a victory in itself. Mallak Beydoun, the campaign coordinator, says they are ready to begin focusing on the November elections.
"We are going to focus on running a clean campaign and making sure we work for every vote as we get our message across," Baydoun stated. "Salamey is a fair and honest man. He's really helped out the community in so many ways. I really believe he is going to bring fairness into the courtroom."