DEARBORN — The Arab American Political Action Committee has announced its endorsements in the Nov. 8 general election.
During a meeting with members on Wednesday, September 28, endorsements across numerous races were selected by the voting member body, following months of interviews and background checks on the candidates.
Formed in 1998, AAPAC's membership consists of a diverse group of Arab American professionals who work to organize and encourage the political activities of Arab Americans. They lobby on behalf of Arab American political causes that may be of concern to the community and bring these issues to the attention of the candidates, before deciding on appropriate endorsements.
AAPAC members during the meeting at The Arab American News offices
For the presidential election, AAPAC has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Clinton was the only candidate in the race to ask for a formal endorsement from the organization.
AAPAC President Mona Fadlallah told The AANews that the organization was aware there's a lack of enthusiasm in the Arab American community towards Clinton, but that ultimately she received the endorsement because she's made recent efforts to reach out to the community.
"We have to appreciate any candidate that reaches out and requests an endorsement," Fadlallah said. "I think the community will make the right decision for themselves on an individual basis. AAPAC, based on its membership, has spoken to the fact that everyone is sick of the negative stereotypes and divisiveness that has taken place on the other side."
Mariam Bazzi, AAPAC co-chair of the endorsement committee, recognized that the community has had a history of grievances with Clinton, but added that it's crucial for Arab Americans to come out on Election Day.
"I think there's nobody in this community that probably doesn't take issue with something she's said or done," Bazzi said. "But ultimately looking at this entire race, and looking at what would be best for this community and this country, AAPAC member's believed there she is the most qualified candidate in the race."
AAPAC endorsed Democrat Abdullah Hammoud for the 15th District state rep. race, where he is squaring off against Republican candidate and former wrestler Terrance Guido Gerin, known professionally as "Rhyno."
Members of AAPAC deliberated for some time regarding the much-heated 19th District Court judge race.
In the primary, AAPAC endorsed UAW attorney Abbie Bazzi, who finished in third place. City Council President Susan Dabaja and attorney Gene Hunt are now battling for the position on the Nov. 8 ballot.
In the weeks leading up to the primary, a heated division in the Arab community ensued between supporters of Dabaja and Bazzi. During the endorsement process Sept. 28, a motion was made to endorse neither Dabaja nor Hunt, which passed.
Some expressed concerns that endorsing a candidate in this particular race would cause further turmoil for the community.
"The motion to not endorse was based on what we believed was in the best interest of the community", Bazzi said. "The voters should do their research and elect the candidate that has proven they are the most qualified person for the seat. They should have the right experience and demeanor to be our next judge.".
In the crowded pool of candidates for the Dearborn School Board, AAPAC endorsed Tpprustee Fadwa Hammoud for one of two open seats for a six-year term. Former Trustee Hussein Berry, Adel Mozip and Khodor Farhat are also vying for one of the open seats, but they weren't able to garner enough support from AAPAC members to land an endorsement.
AAPAC disclosed that it might still endorse a candidate for the second open seat.
The organization endorsed financial advisor Jim Thorpe for the two-year seat on the school board, over Faize El-Khali.
For the Crestwood School Board race in Dearborn Heights, the organization endorsed Nadia Berry, who is bidding to become the first Arab American member elected to the board.
Fadlallah said the endorsement selection was no easy process, citing the various members' differing opinions. The organization continues to follow a transparent process.
"Everyone had an opportunity to voice their opinion as to where we should go," Fadlallah said. "It was a democratic process. Not one person speaks on behalf of the entire community. We have a wide variety of members that speak openly and carefully and this is where the organization stands today."
Bazzi added that she hopes the community looks to AAPAC for guidance in certain races they may not be familiar with, such as the Circuit Court positions. Bazzi noted that members of AAPAC spent months interviewing candidates and reviewing their credentials to determine whether they align with the needs of the community.
"We've really devoted our time and resources," Bazzi said. "We truly want what's best for this community. It's important that we make informed decisions. You are welcome to vote for someone we didn't endorse, but if you are looking for guidance, we hope the slate can assist."
In the meantime, AAPAC is gearing up for its 19th annual banquet, being held on Wednesday, October 26 at the Bint Jebail Cultural Center in Dearborn. The theme for this year's event will be "Community Comes First." For reservations, contact (313) 582-4888 or visit to www.aapac.org.