TUE 26 - 3 - 2019
Nov 8, 2018
The Daily Star
Six Lebanese Americans elected in midterms
Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Five American politicians with Lebanese ancestry were elected to the United States Congress while a sixth was elected as the governor of his state, in the country’s midterm elections this week.
Perhaps the most surprising victor was 77-year-old Democrat Donna Shalala, who won a House of Representatives seat in a Miami district that had long been controlled by the Republican Party. She was the first Democratic candidate to flip a Republican seat in Tuesday’s elections, the Associated Press reported.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio – home to thousands of Lebanese expatriates – Shalala’s grandparents moved to the U.S. from Lebanon “to pursue the American Dream,” according to her website.
Shalala is described as understanding “first-hand the hard work and dedication that defines the lives of immigrants trying to provide a better life for their family, as her grandparents and parents did for her and her twin sister.”
She served as the secretary of Health and Human Services throughout the Bill Clinton administration.
Before her stint in Clinton’s Cabinet, she was the president of the University of Wisconsin, and headed the University of Miami after her Cabinet service.
Shalala was previously granted an honorary doctorate from the American University of Beirut.
After graduating from university she volunteered with the Peace Corps, spending time teaching English instructors at a Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon where she worked with AUB faculty members, according to the university.
Also in Florida, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist whose father has Cypriot and Lebanese ancestry was elected to another congressional seat. Crist is a member of the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Lebanon Relations.
For the Republican Party, Darin LaHood from Illinois was r-elected to the House of Representatives, after first taking office in 2015.
LaHood, also a member of the Lebanese U.S. caucus, hails from and represents Peoria, Illinois – an area with around 8,000 Lebanese families.
In Louisiana, two Republican congressmen with Lebanese roots were re-elected. Ralph Abraham, whose grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon, won another term after assuming office in January 2015. Abraham’s colleague Garret Graves was also re-elected.
Graves, too, is a member of the Lebanese U.S. caucus.
But Lebanese Americans were not just elected to Congress. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu whose grandparents have Lebanese and Palestinian ancestry was re-elected as the governor of New Hampshire after being originally sworn in for a two-year term in January 2017.
Sununu’s father, John, was the White House chief of staff under George H.W. Bush.
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry congratulated the winners in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
“The ministry congratulates the American people on the elections in both houses [of Congress].
“We especially congratulate the elected representatives with Lebanese roots,” said the statement, which included the winners’ names.
The statement added, “Lebanon is proud of its diaspora, which has elevated [the country’s] name and has been a model of integration in the communities that hosted them.”
The ministry praised the results as a great victory for the Lebanese community and Americans of Lebanese origin. “May we work together to promote Lebanese American relations for the good of the two countries,” the statement read.
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