DEARBORN — Three names have emerged as contenders to fill the State House seat vacated by Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud through the end of the year.
On the Democratic ticket are Alabas Farhat and local attorney Jeffrey Pepper. One Republican, Ginger Shearer, formerly known as Virginia Polk, is also in the race.
Governor Whitmer has called for a special primary election on March 1 and a general election on May 3. The winner will finish out Hammoud’s term. Some residents have already begun receiving absentee ballots for the election.
The area that the 15th House District covers is now slated to fall under entirely new district maps, finalized by the bipartisan Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) in late December. The Commission finalized maps that were supposed to become law on Dec. 31, but its decisions now face a legal challenge, with more challenges expected in the future.
Farhat sent responses to The Arab American News’ questions about his candidacy via email.
Alabas has expressed interest in the full term seat up for election in November, which will be for an entirely new district covering the Dearborn area, beginning next year. So far Pepper has told The Arab American News that that he does not plan to run for that seat in the November election.
What are some of the most pressing needs of this district that you think you could help bring solutions to if elected as state representative?
Poor and outdated infrastructure is arguably one of the most important challenges facing our community. From dilapidated roadways to outdated sewage systems, we have experienced unprecedented levels of damage to our lives and property. We will work with our partners at the regional, state and federal levels to pool in our fair share of federally delegated funds to improve our crumbling infrastructure. Taking this on, we need to work hand in hand with our local leaders to identify specific areas that can make the most impactful and lasting change to prevent infrastructure failures, like the catastrophic flooding in 2021.
Beyond this, the conversation about infrastructure investment is not just physical needs but digital ones as well. This means maximizing broadband access. Addressing these facets of infrastructure is crucial to our community’s academic, social and economic success.
Are there issues beyond infrastructure needs that residents should be aware of and fall under the purview of a state legislator?
We need to invest in our schools and personnel. Michigan is experiencing an unprecedented teacher shortage, and Dearborn is no exception. I am committed to recruiting and retaining more teachers so that we can rebuild the profession while attracting the most competitive candidates in the process. Next, we need to focus on stabilizing our early childhood education (ECE) centers. They too have experienced unprecedented levels of instability since the onset of the pandemic, and the financial consequences they have faced have made it hard for ECE centers to operate. This affects student outcomes long-term and it is hurting our workforce today, as parents struggle to find quality and affordable childcare. Another important issue lies with our poor school infrastructure. Presently, our schools lack classroom space and modern equipment. I am dedicated to remedying these issues so our students can maximize their learning experiences.
Protecting our environment is crucial for our communities. Poor air quality and contaminated waters are of the utmost importance and stricter restrictions are necessary to protect the health of our people and natural habitats.
How does your professional background or community experience prepare you to hold this important seat?
I first discovered my passion for public service in the Michigan House of Representatives, working as a legislative intern for Mayor Abdullah Hammoud. Through my daily communication and work with constituents, I quickly learned that real change starts with the people. Since that time, I have pursued both professional and academic paths that center this belief.
In 2020, I negotiated a multi-million dollar collective bargaining agreement, securing healthcare benefits and better working conditions for nearly 200 union members. With the Wayne County Office of the Executive, I learned how to navigate a billion-dollar budget (and) coordinate the launching of vaccine centers, such as the one at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center. Additionally, I assisted business owners and frontline workers (to) access financial relief during the COVD-19 pandemic. I have developed the ability to bring people together and, with my understanding of social policy and public health, can identify and address our community’s most pressing challenges.