November 5, 2019 may have been an off-year election with no national races on the ballot, but it nonetheless was a momentous day in Maine. Across the state, first and second generation immigrants won seats on their local city councils and school boards.
- In Bangor, Angela Okafor, an immigrant from Nigeria, won a seat on the City Council, and Marwa Hassanien, whose parents immigrated from Egypt, won her race for School Committee.
- In Brewer, Soubanh Phanthey, originally from Thailand, gained a seat on the City Council.
- Hamden voted Tania Jean-Jacques, whose family immigrated from Haiti via Canada, onto the RSU 22 School Board.
- In Lewiston, Safiya Khalid became the first Somali immigrant since Somalis started settling in Lewiston in 2001 to win a seat on the Lewiston City Council, with over 69% of the vote.
- In Portland, Pious Ali, an immigrant from Ghana, won an uncontested race for reelection to his at-large seat on the City Council, and Tae Chong, whose family immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea, won a 5 way race for the City Council’s District 3 seat.
- In Westbrook, Claude Rwanganje, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who came to the U.S. and gained asylum, will now represent his district on the City Council.
These individuals have varying political affiliations and views, but they have one thing in common, a history of serving their communities in their work and as volunteers.
At MeBIC, we constantly sound the refrain that immigrants and their children not only help stem Maine’s depopulation and keep our economy robust, but that they also keep our communities vibrant.
These leaders who are stepping up to the call of public service in their local governments and school districts, make that message come alive. MeBIC congratulates them for their hard work during their campaigns, and thanks them for their willingness to serve .