Durham County commissioner-elect becomes first Muslim woman to hold office in NC

Capitol Report

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — History was made in Durham County after voters elected the first Muslim woman to hold office in the state of North Carolina as well as the county’s first all-female board of commissioners.

Nida Allam finished fourth in voting for the five available seats on Durham County’s Board of Commissioners in the Democratic Primary. No Republicans are running, so the five top finishers are presumed to win in the fall election.

In addition to Allam, the winners in Tuesday’s primary include incumbents Wendy Jacobs, Heidi Carter and Brenda Howerton as well as newcomer Nimasheena Burns.

“I think it’s really amazing, and it goes to show how progressive Durham really is and how much they care about the voices of people being heard,” said Allam in an interview with CBS17.

Allam said she was first inspired to get involved in politics after the murders of her three friends in Chapel Hill. Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were shot and killed in 2015 while Allam was a student at NC State.

“Realizing that I’ve experienced this pain and this trauma. Our entire community has. But, I still carry a great amount of privilege, and being able to find a balance of how can I use that privilege to actually support different communities who haven’t had their voices heard,” said Allam. “It’s not gonna hold us back. We’re gonna take that tragedy and look at the bright side. We’re gonna look at the love that Deah, Yusor and Razan carried through their lives and the love that we’ve seen, an outpouring love after they passed, and continue to carry that forward.”

Since launching her campaign, she’s received support but also had hateful comments directed her way. She said once that happened, she started reaching out to try to find someone she could talk to who had successfully run for office. That’s when she discovered if she won her race, she would be the first Muslim woman in North Carolina to get elected.

“My silhouette on my campaign logo is of my hijab because I wanted to be very unapologetic about that. These little girls were so excited. They said, ‘That’s you? Is that really a hijab? Is that a hijab that you use?’ They were so excited to see that kind of representation,” Allam said. “And it really solidified for me how important it was to for me to be running for office.”

Allam said she wanted to run for commissioner because of the significant role the board has in allocating funding for schools.

“This type of hatred and bigotry that my friends were lost to, I feel like there’s a lack of education, that also leads to that type of environment,” she said.

Allam was elected third vice chair of the N.C. Democratic Party in 2017 — the first Muslim ever elected to the Executive Council.

“People of Durham you made history last night by electing me as the FIRST Muslim Woman to serve the state of North Carolina. I can’t even express how grateful I am to have earned your trust and support,” Allam said via Twitter.

Allam finished fourth in voting for the five available seats for Durham County’s Board of Commissioners.

Allam was elected third vice chair of the N.C. Democratic Party in 2017 — the first Muslim ever elected to the Executive Council.

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