April 14, 2021 By Ryan Songalia
Rana Abdelhamid became an activist at age 16, when a man on the street tried to snatch the hijab off her head.
Today, more than 10 years later the Astoria progressive announced that she is looking to grab a seat in congress. Abdelhamid, 27, is running for New York’s 12th congressional district, becoming the latest challenger to take on long-time incumbent Carolyn Maloney.
She enters the race with the backing of an influential progressive group.
Justice Democrats, which helped propel Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to Congress, will be supporting her campaign.
The Justice Democrats’ tag line – “Let’s Elect The Next Generation” – is particularly applicable to this race, given that Maloney, who began her first term in 1993, has been in office longer than Abdelhamid has been alive.
Maloney, 75, has appeared vulnerable in recent electoral cycles. In 2020, Maloney eked out a victory beating Suraj Patel by fewer than 4 percentage points and generating just 43 percent of the vote in a four-way race. The race also included Lauren Ashcraft and Peter Harrison, both progressives.
In 2018, she beat Patel, a relative unknown at the time, when she garnered 60 percent of the vote.
Maloney recently announced her intentions to run for another term, while Patel is also expected to challenge once again.
Abdelhamid, who has just released a campaign video, was critical of Maloney’s ties to big corporations, saying the incumbent has “spent almost 30 years taking millions of dollars from the developers and Wall Street banks, profiting off our suffering.”
She also pointed out Maloney’s wealth, estimated to be $28.5 million in 2016, noting that many in Congress are affluent. “People don’t feel represented when 50 percent of Congress is made up of millionaires,” she said.
I was 16 when a man grabbed my hijab and tried to rip it from my head.
New Yorkers helped me find the courage to fight back and organize for safety and power.
— Rana Abdelhamid (@RanaForCongress) April 14, 2021
Maloney, however, appears to be unfazed by her competitor.
A spokesperson for Maloney told the Queens Post that she has never lost a political race in her decades of public life.
“She runs to win and will do so again,” said Jim Duffy, her campaign spokesperson. “She fully intends to be the congresswoman again after 2021.”
Abdelhamid, in her video, is advocating for a range of progressive policies such as the Green New Deal, Medicare For All, affordable housing and an end to mass incarceration. She also calls for “full COVID relief for our working families and small businesses.”
She said in the video that these issues were of significance to her by sharing stories about her parents.
Her father lost his deli due to surging rent prices while her mother struggled with COVID-19. Her mother, who has since recovered and was featured in the video, was told she would have a better chance of recovering if she was receiving treatment in a private hospital.
Abdelhamid’s announcement today represents her first foray into electoral politics.
She is a daughter of Egyptian immigrants and works for Google. She graduated from Middlebury College and Harvard Kennedy School, reported the New York Times.
Abdelhamid is a first degree black belt in Tai Chi karate, and launched a self defense group for women to help them ward off attacks like what she was subject to when she was 16.
Her other credits include sitting on the board of Amnesty International, where she serves on the National Resolutions Committee, according to the organization’s website.
A win by Abdelhamid would be the latest electoral upset by Justice Democrats, a group that rose to national prominence when Ocasio-Cortez, then a Bronx activist who was about the same age as Abdelhamid, unseated Joe Crowley.
The group is coming off a strong 2018, when Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush and Marie Newman all pulled off primary victories and went on to win their general election races.
Harrison, who garnered 4 percent of the NY-12 vote in 2020, says there are a number of hurdles a progressive candidate like Abdelhamid would have to deal with, including an uncertain congressional map due to redistricting.
New York is expected to lose two congressional seats when the new census information becomes available by October, which could lead to a significant redrawing of the district’s map.
“Dem voters here are still more centrist-left, so the transformative agenda we want is heavy lifting, if you can even get in front of enough voters which is harder in Manhattan at least,” Harrison, a housing activist who worked on Ocasio-Cortez’s 2018 campaign, tells Queens Post.
“And you’re effectively facing two well-financed incumbents [Maloney and Patel] who about 80 percent of Dem voters know and support, so peeling off enough from each is hard without big name recognition.”
Harrison adds that redistricting will be the “wild card” in the race, and whether more progressive pockets of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan are pulled in could affect the outcome.
“The delay and unknowns about redistricting are a hassle for every race, but in NY-12 it could literally redefine the race overnight.”