AAPAC fires up voters, honors state leaders at annual gala
By Natasha Dado | Friday, 10.24.2014, 01:25 AM
AAPAC honors former congressman John Dingell.
DEARBORN — Following the organization’s 17th annual banquet on Wednesday, Oct. 22, members of the Arab American Political Action Committee (AAPAC) voted to endorse Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer. Both Schauer and Gov. Rick Snyder had sought AAPAC’s endorsement. The dinner took place at the Bint Jebail Cultural Center. AAPAC announced its endorsements for all other offices in theNov. 4election two weeks ago, but opted to wait until after the annual banquet before making a decision about the governor’s race. Schauer spoke at the event. Gov. Snyder had also been invited, but did not attend. Instead, Michael Zimmer, acting director for the State of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, addressed the crowd on his behalf. In his presentation, Schauer talked about his involvement in helping to rescue the auto industry while he served in congress; as well as the non-profit agency with more than 200 employees he ran, which provided services for preschoolers, early childhood education, connected senior citizens with resources such as Meals on Wheels, and provided families with resources to get back on their feet during tough times. "My opponent’s economy might work for some, but it is not working for most of Michigan, including people in this room who work hard every day to provide for their families and are not getting a fair shot,” Schauer said, adding that as governor he would cut taxes for the middle class, restore the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit, end pension tax and reverse the deep cuts to Michigan schools. He also said public education would be his number one priority.
Democratic candidate for Michigan governor Mark Schauer.
“As governor, I’ll make sure we fulfill our moral obligation, protect our land, our air and our water so that companies like Severstal aren’t given free rein to pollute the air that our children breathe,” Schauer said. “A child living in the south end should not have to be placed on a breathing machine when they go to bed at night. Parents should not have to worry that their children will get asthma because leaders in Lansing are protecting big industry and special interests over the public health of our children.” Schauer also promised that as governor he would make sure his administration reflects the state’s diversity by assuring that Arab Americans are represented in state government. “I have tremendous respect for the contributions the Arab community has made to our great state, and that each of you has made each and everyday. In his presentation, Zimmer discussed the progress Snyder's administration has made, including working with Democrats on bipartisan legislation. He said Gov. Snyder managed to tackle a projected $1.5 billion deficit his first year in office, increased K-12 spending by $1 billion, supported Healthy Michigan, a provision under the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) that has expanded Medicaid in Michigan and embraced immigration. Zimmer also said Detroit is poised to come out of bankruptcy. According to AAPAC President Ali Hammoud, when the group was first started in 1998 the number of registered voters in Dearborn was 8,500. Today, there are 21,650. Dignitaries honored During the event, AAPAC honored retiring Senator Carl Levin and Congressman John Dingell, as well as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations of Michigan.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
“We give thanks to tonight’s awardees for lending their voices to ours, Dawud Walid for his activism in the area of civil and human rights, Mayor Mike Duggan for his commitment to the city of Detroit in the face of much adversity, U.S. Senator Carl Levin for his unwavering support of the men and women serving this country and Congressman John Dingell for his civil discourse even across the aisle for nearly 60 years,” said Zenna Elhassan, AAPAC vice president. “They have all brought about change that has encouraged all of us to get involved.” Rep. Gary Peters, a Democrat who is competing for Levin’s seat against former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (and who received AAPAC’s endorsement two weeks ago), addressed attendees at the event. “AAPAC is a great organization that does wonderful work in empowering people to make sure voices are heard," Peters said. He also discussed the importance of passing comprehensive immigration reform. For his part, Levin, who was introduced by 3rd Circuit Court Judge David Allen, thanked AAPAC for its participation in making this country a more perfect union “…This organization, AAPAC, is all about justice,” Levin said. "I know I will sleep very well if Gary Peters is my successor in the United States senate.” Emotional tribute to John Dingell Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News, introduced Dingell. “I love this man, John D. Dingell,” Siblani said. “He supported all civil rights bills, and voted against the Iraq war… He stood with us side by side. When things got tough for this community and other politicians abandoned us, he was there. He is leaving the congress, but he will always be our neighbor, our mentor, inspiration, listener and most importantly our dear friend and major part of our past, present and the future.”
Siblani said that during Dingell’s 59 years as a congressman he's been a relentless advocate for healthcare reform and champion for the environment by introducing bills such as the Patients Before Profit Act, Patients Bill of Rights Act, and sponsoring the Polluter Accountability Act. Several people surrounded Dingell as he accepted his award and made an emotional speech. “To walk into this room is walking into heaven...It is a great privilege for Deborah and I to come here and to have the opportunity,” Dingell said. "Thank you for the award. Thank you even more for your friendship and goodness to us. There is no way of us ever expressing adequate thanks to you for your goodness." Dingell also thanked the Arab American community for its friendship. “Thank you all for your goodness,” he said. “Thank you all for your love. Thank you all for what you have done for Deborah and I. I have left you a very distinguished successor, a woman of great charm and beauty and one who will serve this organization, the 12th congressional district with distinguished service and responsibility." Deborah Dingell, who also attended, is running for her husband’s seat. Dingell said having Siblani as a mentor, teacher and friend has been a great experience in his life. Attorney Amir Maklad introduced Walid and praised him for his relentless advocacy for equality and civil rights. Mayor Duggan was introduced by AAPAC founder and former president Abed Hammoud. Hammoud said AAPAC supported Duggan in his first run for office when the group was only two years old. “Today, 15 years later, we are giving you this award not only for all the things you have done so far for this region, for this city, for this county, but for the things we know you are going to do,” Hammoud said. Hundreds attended the event, including former Detroit Police Chief and Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans, a candidate for Wayne County Executive; Wayne County Prosecutor Kim Worthy; Zeineb Hassan, candidate for the Crestwood Board of Education; the consul general of Lebanon, Bilal Kabalan, and Mark Totten, candidate for Michigan Attorney general. More than 13,000 Arab American students attend Dearborn Public Schools. AAPAC has endorsed qualified candidates for the Dearborn Board of Education race, including attorney and past AAPAC president Mariam Bazzi; Ghinwah Karkaba and Dr. J. Michael Meade. The group believes they will represent the best interest of all students in the school district. “On behalf of AAPAC and everyone here tonight we thank you for your continued leadership,” said Hammoud, who described Bazzi as a tireless advocate for both the community and for AAPAC. Although AAPAC members made their gubernatorial endorsement decision according to the organization’s bylaws, the group distributed “ballots” to the attendees, to “take the pulse of the community” as to which candidate they favored. AAPAC Secretary Mona Fadlallah said candidates who are endorsed by AAPAC must receive two thirds of the vote.