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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Here are the Arab Americans running for the House of Representatives

From Louisiana to New Jersey, Arab Americans across the United States are running in the midterm elections

US Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar attends a gun violence prevention roundtable with former US Representative Gabby Giffords in Minneapolis, Minnesota. reuters
US Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar attends a gun violence prevention roundtable with former US Representative Gabby Giffords in Minneapolis, Minnesota. reuters

Updates: Follow our live coverage of the midterms

This year's midterm elections has seen a surge of women and minority candidates running for office.

The United States House of Representatives this year will have its first Muslim-American woman elected to the chamber, as well as a host of representatives from the Arab world.

Some arrived in America as refugees, while others are children of immigrants, who have found success and a home in the United States.

Here are all the Arab Americans running for the House of Representatives, according to the Arab American institute:

Ammar Campa-Najjar, Democrat, California 50th

Fighting against incumbent Duncan Huner, in a solid red San Diego County, Mr Campa-Najjar faces an uphill battle. Mr Hunter's father was elected in the same district in 1980 and they are well known in the community.

But Mr Hunter is facing a federal indictment for a misuse of campaign funds, paying for a family trip to Italy, a plane journey for their pet rabbit and a shopping spree.

Mr Campa-Najjar is a Palestinian-Mexican-American who worked in the Obama administration. But he faces an uphill battle in a conservative district. Mr Campa-Najjar's grandfather, who died 16 years before he was born, was involved in the Munich Olympics massacre.

One voter told CBS, "he's not going to have America's interest at heart. He's going to have the world's interest, maybe even on the, uh, the Islamist side of things."

Rashida Tlaib, Democrat, Michigan 13th

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2008 file photo, Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, is photographed outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Mich. The Michigan primary victory of Tlaib, who is expected to become the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to serve in the U.S. Congress, is rippling across the Middle East. In the West Bank village where Tlaib’s mother was born, residents are greeting the news with a mixture of pride and hope that she will take on a U.S. administration widely seen as hostile to the Palestinian cause. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2008 file photo, Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, is photographed outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Mich. The Michigan primary victory of Tlaib, who is expected to become the first Muslim woman and Palestinian-American to serve in the U.S. Congress, is rippling across the Middle East. In the West Bank village where Tlaib’s mother was born, residents are greeting the news with a mixture of pride and hope that she will take on a U.S. administration widely seen as hostile to the Palestinian cause. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File)

Certain to be the first Muslim-American woman elected to Congress, Palestinian-American Rashida Tlaib will draw on the lessons she learned from her two Palestinian grandmothers.

“As a little girl I just remember her walking into a room full of men,” Ms Tlaib said of her maternal grandmother to The National. “She didn’t care. She’d tell them to move out of her way, I’m going to sit here and be part of a meeting. She didn’t want to be in that room but knew that’s where the decisions were made.”

Uncontested in her election ot the Michigan 13th district, Ms Tlaib was the first Muslim in Michigan's state legislature, taking on the Kock brothers and winning – forcing them to store toxic waste in enclosures.

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Darin LaHood, Republican, Illinois 18th

Son of Ray LaHood, a Lebanese-American who served as US Secretary of Transportation under President Obama, Darin LaHood has been a congressman for the 18th district of Illinois since 2015.

Mr LaHood focusses on national security, agriculture and healthcare. Mr LaHood served on the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Donna Shalala, Democrat, Florida 27th

Former health and human services secretary under President Clinton, Lebanese-American Donna Shalala is facing first-time candidate Maria Elvira Salazar.

Ms Shalala, 77, has been able to extend her lead to ten points in what is traditionally a Republican district, with wealthy communities on Miami Beach and Coral Gables.

Hillary Clinton won the district by 20 percentage points, but the race has proved slightly closer than expected, prompting concern from Democratic parties in the area.

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Read more:

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Garret Graves, Republican, Louisiana 6th

The representative for the Louisiana 6th since 2014, Mr Graves, 46, is expected to win his district comfortably.

In the last two presidential elections, the Louisiana 6th has been on average 19 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

Ilhan Omar, Democrat, Minnesota 5th

US Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar arrives to encourage campaign volunteers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reuters
US Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar arrives to encourage campaign volunteers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reuters

A Somali-American born in Mogadishu, Ms Omar, 37, would be, with presumptive nominee Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslim woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Ms Omar lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years, after fleeing Somalia before moving to the US in 1995. Ms Omar used to attend caucus meetings with her grandfather where she acted as his interpreter, which sparked her interest in the Democratic process.

“It was a free process and it wasn’t like the one he was exposed to,” she told The Guardian newspaper. “In America, you could be involved in a political party and you didn’t have to be a member of a specific class.”

But it hasn't been easy. In 2014 a group of people held her down at a Minnesota party caucus and repeatedly hit her, giving her a concussion.

Now, she is returning to that same district as the Democratic candidate. Her chances are good, in the last two Presidential elections her district has tended towards the Democrats 26 points more than the national average.

Justin Amash, Republican, Michigan 3rd

A straight-edges "stickler for rules" and the representative for the Michigan 3rd since 2011, Justin Amash is expected to win his seat again.

The son of two immigrants, a Palestinian-Christian father and Syrian-Christian mother, Mr Amash described as a libertarian Republican and is associated with the Tea Party movement.

Mahmoud Mahmoud, New Way Forward, New Jersey 8th

Campaigning for a third party in a strongly Democrat district, Egyptian-American Mahmoud Mahmoud worked for the United Nations in Cairo and in refugee camps in Kenya and Somalia.

Mr Mahmoud is campaigning for universal health care, free tuition, climate change action and LGBT equality.

He is unlikely to win his district but could be a promising progressive candidate in the future.

Dan David, Republican, Pennsylvania 4th

Running a new district, created to correct partisan gerrymandering, Mr David is a businessman and whistleblower with a particular interest in China. He is racing against Madeleine Dean, a Pennsylvania state representative.

Mr David's work as a whistleblower was featured in the documentary The China Hustle, which shows how US-China collusion sold bad investments to US retirees.

The seat is thought to be a safe Republican seat.

Ralph Abraham, Republican, Louisiana 5th

The Louisiana 5th is a strongly Republican district, where Lebanese-American Ralph Abraham has served since 2014.

Before he was a representative in Congress, Mr Abraham was a veterinarian for ten years, subsequently returning to university to study medicine.