ARIZONA – Deedra Abboud, an Arizona 45-year-old Muslim attorney who is running for senate, has received unexpected support from her incumbent Republican opponent, after becoming victim to repeated racial online abuse.
“It’s unfortunate that this is the type of discourse that has become acceptable in America,” says Abboud, who’s running to challenge Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.
“We as a society have never stood up and said, ‘No, this doesn’t reflect us.'”
The Muslim candidate has been facing nasty remarks online. “Towel headed piece of sh*t,” reads one recent comment.
“Your first love is Satan (AKA Allah),” reads another. “No room for Muslims in our government,” says a third.
Abboud, who wears a hijab, converted to Islam in 1998 (she was previously a Southern Baptist.)
Abboud started and served as president of the Arizona chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations, and was the director of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation.
She graduated from Arizona Summit Law School in 2012, practicing immigration and estate law before shifting into politics.
Before facing Sen. Flake, she must defeat Army veteran Chris Russell in the Democratic primary next summer, in a state that has not been ruled by Democrats over the past 20 years.
“Ultimately, the numbers in Arizona still work to the Republicans’ advantage,” says Samara Klar, assistant professor of political science at the University of Arizona.
“We have more Republican [voters] than we do Democrats, so the simple numbers are going to make it more difficult for the Democrats.”
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 19, 2017
On Tuesday, she received a pleasant surprise from Sen. Flake, Abboud’s would-be general election opponent if both politicians win their respective primaries.
“Hang in there,” Flake told Abboud via Twitter. “Sorry you have to put up with this. Lots of wonderful people across AZ. You’ll find them.”
Flake’s message is exactly what Abboud believes how politicians should act.
“I expect our elected leaders to stand up and say when something’s wrong,” says Abboud.
“I don’t think anyone has expected that lately, including myself, which is why I got into the campaign.”
Sen. Flake has not contact Abboud beyond the Twitter exchange.
“It wasn’t a tragedy where someone needs to reach out to another person,” she says.
“It was on social media, and he handled it on social media, and that was very gracious.” Flake’s office declined to comment further.
Flake’s overture has been praised by some as a rare moment of civility in an increasingly partisan political climate.
Flake “is one of the most decent people I know,” tweeted Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat.
David Ramadan, a Republican and former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, called Flake a “class act” and “a dying breed.”
Tim Fullerton, who runs digital communications for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, applauded Flake for “standing up and saying what’s right.”