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First Muslim, African American to be South Portland city councilor

The city of South Portland is making political history. Deqa Dhalac was sworn in Thursday night as the newest city councilor in South Portland after defeating a longtime local business owner in Tuesday's citywide special election.

The City of South Portland is making political history. Deqa Dhalac was sworn in Thursday night as the newest city councilor in South Portland after defeating a longtime local business owner in Tuesday's citywide special election. 

Daqa Dhalac is believed to be the first African American and first Muslim to be elected to the city council, just one of many women making their marks in Maine politics recently.

Originally from Somalia, Dhalac is a U.S. citizen, a social worker with two masters degrees and a single mother of three.

She is also the newest member of the South Portland City Council, representing District 5.

"I'm extremely excited. I'm so honored and humbled by people of South Portland to vote and put their trust in me," Dhalac said after being sworn in. 

Dhalac got more than two-thirds of the vote in the race against longtime business owner Donald Cook, a special election that brought out a large number of voters.

"My campaign was all about love.”

Dhalac says she knocked on more than 2,000 doors to learn what people wanted her to work on if she got elected. Dhalac says she would like to focus on improving the city's education system and develop more affordable housing.

Being the first Muslim and woman of color to be elected to the council, gives Dhalac great pride. 

"Everybody was excited to see a different person, different representation, different faces in the city council. A lot of people were like, 'It's time.'"

Dhalac hopes her victory empowers other immigrants in Maine. She received a letter from a Muslim girl who thanked her for being the first Somali to become a city councilor. 

Dhalac represents a growing trend of women in Maine politics who are breaking barriers. 

In 2017 Samantha Paradis unseated longtime Belfast mayor Walter Ash to became the youngest mayor of the midcoast city, and the first to self-identify as queer.

Twenty-eight-year-old Sarah Nichols was re-elected to the Bangor City Council and was unanimously elected council chair in November, making her the youngest person to ever do so. And of course, Janet Mills made national headlines when she became the first female elected Governor of Maine in the midterms.

Dahlac says it's diversity that will help communities build bridges.

"When we sit together and eat together and drink together, we have so much more in common than differences."

Making a difference for the City of South Portland is what Dahlac says she is determined to do.