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Arab Americans make history winning mayoral races in Michigan

Abdullah Hammoud wins mayor seat in Dearborn and Amer Ghalib is elected in Hamtramck
Hammoud won 55 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election.
Hammoud won 55 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election (File photo/Courtesy of Hammoud's campaign)

Two Arab Americans have made history after being elected as mayors for two cities in the US state of Michigan.

Abdullah Hammoud, a 31-year-old state representative, won 55 percent of the vote on Tuesday evening and beat Gary Woronchak to become the first mayor of Arab descent for the city of Dearborn in Detroit, Michigan. 

He will replace the sitting mayor, John B O'Reilly, who has held the seat since 2007 and did not seek re-election.

Dearborn, a Detroit suburb of 95,000 people, is often referred to as the capital of Arab America due to its large concentration of Arab Americans.

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Hammoud told the crowds that this was "a new era in Dearborn" and that he hopes his victory will inspire Arab Americans and other minorities in the country. 

"Throughout this campaign, we said that together we can and together we will bring change," said Hammoud, addressing supporters on election night at the Mohammed Turfe Community Center.

"To the young girls and boys who have ever been ridiculed for their faith or ethnicity, to those of you who were ever made to feel that their names were unwelcome, and to our parents and to our elders and to others who were humiliated for their broken English and yet still persisted, today is proof that you are as American as anyone else."

Hammoud was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives as a Democrat in 2016 and gained a reputation as a progressive voice in state politics. 

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His victory was just one of the historic electoral successes announced on Tuesday night. 

In the nearby city of Hamtramck, Amer Ghalib, a 42-year-old health care worker and immigrant from Yemen, was also elected as mayor, becoming the first non-Polish and Arab mayor to lead the city in 100 years. 

Ghalib secured 68 percent of the vote, beating incumbent Karen Majewski.

Supporters of Ghalib were jubilant at the results, after years of struggling to secure political representation for the area's large immigrant community.

Ghalib will be the first Arab American and first Muslim to lead Hamtramck, where about half of the city is believed to be Muslim.

"Tonight is a real example that the American Dream is alive and well in the land of opportunity," Ghalib told supporters.

"Our victory tonight is a testament to this possibility - that an immigrant like myself who came here working a factory job at age 17 now has the honour and opportunity to serve the community that raised him as your next mayor."

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