It has been a year since Democrat Deedra Abboud, a Scottsdale attorney, announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate. A Muslim, Abboud faced almost immediate backlash for her faith but she says things are better now.
Deedra Abboud is originally from Arkansas, one of four daughters raised by a single mother. She says she fell in love with Arizona after a visit to the state in 1998.
An attorney, Abboud says she has been a civil rights and social justice advocate for fifteen years. Her legal work has focused on immigration and estate planning.
Before incumbent Republican Senator Jeff Flake announced he was not seeking reelection, Abboud decided she was qualified to run for the United States Senate and determined to visit and engage with every part of the state to do it. She crafted a detailed website, attempting to offer real solutions and policies that would spark conversations with voters, and she hit the road.
The backlash was immediate. Messages poured in to Abboud’s Facebook page. The verbal attacks focused on her Muslim faith. Abboud says many people felt empowered to attack her and other marginalized groups and they had the platform to do it.
“That’s a reality whether you are running for office or not. But I knew I could get out and stand up to this hate,” she says.
Abboud says her campaign “weathered the storm,” facing down on-line and in-person protestors with compassion and dialogue. “We showed we could be strong and respectful whether they were or not,” she says. A year later she says things are better. People would rather talk about issues and discuss policies.
But anti-Muslim bias still creeps in, and for Abboud, from some unfortunate sources.
Recently, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan threw her support behind the non-Muslim Democratic candidate in the primary race for that state’s next Governor. Dingell suggested that candidate, Abdul El-Sayed, would have a hard time winning because of his faith. Abboud says the message coming from an established Democratic leader, goes against everything she believes about the Democratic Party.
“Democrats are supposed to be the party of inclusion, we are supposed to be the big tent. If marginalized communities cannot depend on the Democratic Party and Democratic leadership then we need to rethink who we are,” she says.
Abboud’s faith and her background as an attorney may give her voice greater resonance on topics like religious tolerance, immigration and civil rights. Abboud says being part of a group that has at times been targeted has given her a certain perspective. “But I think that anybody can have empathy, and common sense,” she says. “When your neighbor is attacked you have to stand up.”
Immigration and the detainment of children separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border is an issue that Abboud sees as one that distinguishes her from her Democratic primary opponent, Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. Sinema has faced some criticism for not more forcefully responding to concerns about the housing of children separated from their parents at the border. Initial photos of children in fenced enclosures, “cages” to Abboud, require a non-partisan response.
“If you can’t put aside your political aspirations to stand up against an administration who is choosing to put kids in cages in the United States of America in 2018, then I don’t know when you will stand up,” says Abboud.
Healthcare for all is another issue that resonates for Abboud. She says the U.S. should have figured out by now how to provide healthcare to citizens that doesn’t force them into poverty. She says other nations have figured it out, it is time for the U.S. to do the same.
She says it is “borderline crazy” that Arizona does not have a long term plan to preserve and conserve water. She says there is no reason not to consider solutions now. “We need a plan to preserve water and always make sure we have clean water,” she says. “This is a problem today and it is only going to get worse.
Reacting to President Donald Trump’s recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Abboud says she found the interaction concerning. The President seemed reluctant to criticize Russia for attempts to influence U.S. elections. He recently walked back or clarified some of his remarks But Abboud says cybersecurity is “the new terrorism.” She says even friends of the U.S. spy on the country and interfere in politics. “All of a sudden It sounded like Russia was our friend, therefore they would never do anything to spy on us or hurt our political process. That isn’t even true of our allies,” she says.
Abboud says her commitment not to take corporate, PAC or special interest money is just one reason voters should meet and speak with her. She plans to visit every corner of the state in hopes of meeting voters who will question her and give her a chance to share her positions.
Abboud faces Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate on August 28th.