LEWISTON, Maine — The 2019 election was a historic one in Maine. A record number of first and second-generation Americans were on ballots across the state.
Of the eleven who ran, nine won their races.
The city of Lewiston elected the first Somali-American to its city council. Twenty-three-year-old Safiya Khalid was born in Somalia and immigrated to the United States as a refugee when she was just 7-years-old. After initially being hosted in New Jersey, her family moved to Lewiston a short time thereafter.
The city of Bangor elected Angela Okafor to its city council. Okafor grew up in Nigeria and completed a law degree there before moving to Bangor with her husband in 2007.
Bangor also elected Marwa Elkelani to its school board. Elkelani is a second-generation American. She was born in Ohio to immigrant parents from Egypt. Elkelani says, “I definitely believe that diversity is a hallmark of our country and its time that Bangor represents that ... I think that we definitely need diversity to protect America’s democratic foundation. Diversity inspires new ideas and different ways to address issues."
Tae Chong was elected to the Portland City Council, representing District 3. Chong immigrated to Maine as a boy, specifically recalling it as Halloween 1976. Chong has made a life in Maine, and is a long-time resident in Portland, according to his campaign page.
The city of Westbrook elected Claude Rwaganje to its city council. Rwaganje is a first-generation American, who arrived in Maine from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996.
Westbrook also reelected second-generation American Victor Chau to the city council. Chau's parents immigrated to the United State from Vietnam. He was born in Pennsylvania. This will be the 10th time Chau serves on the city council.
Pious Ali was reelected to Portland's City Council. Born in Ghana, Pious immigrated to New York City before moving to Maine in 2002.
Ali shared on Facebook, "Yesterday's election was historic, a record number of first and second-generation Americans (Immigrants )were on the ballot and almost all of us got elected ( re-elected in my case). I am looking forward to serving our towns and communities with these amazing humans."
Tania Jean-Jacques was elected to Hampden's RSU #22 school board. Jean-Jacques was born in Haiti and immigrated to Montreal when she was just 6-years-old. She immigrated to the United States years later as a teenager.
Regarding her win, Jean-Jacques says, “It means the world to me. I love Maine and I love my community. It’s where I’ll be raising my children."
"I think it’s important for officials to represent the demographic they’re serving, and diversity is important," says Jean-Jacques.
Brewer elected first-generation American Soubanh Phanthay to its city council. Phanthay was born in Laos and relocated to Thailand as a refugee during the Vietnam War. Phanthay came to the United States in 1980. His immigration sponsor was in Houlton, Maine.
“I’m happy to be part of that group," says Phanthay of the historic year for immigrants. "I hope that everyone is able to fulfill their roles and prove to those who elected them that they can serve in those roles and do a good job.”
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