SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The South Portland woman who made history as the country's first Somali-American mayor has made headlines once again.
On Nov. 8, Deqa Dhalac, a Democrat, was elected to represent the Maine House of Representatives District 120. She was running against Republican Michael Dougherty.
Dhalac began her political career in South Portland in 2018 when she ran for the South Portland City Council and won. She was reelected in 2020.
In December of 2021, her fellow councilors unanimously elected her mayor—a decision that made national headlines.
Dhalac was not only the first woman of color to serve in this position in South Portland, but she was also the first Somali-American mayor in the United States.
"We need folks like myself who represent a whole different community to be sitting in the state legislature, so that we can be representing all communities in our state," Dhalac said.
Dhalac grew up in a middle-class home in Somalia with a well-educated father who was engaged in politics. She said her mother was also "extremely smart."
Dhalac has two master's degrees and works full-time as a social worker for the Maine Department of Education. She's also a leader in the Somali Community Center of Maine.
Dhalac said her priorities for serving in the Maine legislature include things like climate change, education, health care, and housing. She also wants to change the perception she said some people have of immigrants—that they're only in the United States to collect welfare.
"We’re here to contribute to the economy, to work, and to raise our children in a safe place," Dhalac said.