On a sunny Monday afternoon, Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, formally announced that she is running for the newly drawn U.S. Congressional seat that covers a district held for decades by retiring Rep. David Price.
“I think it’s high time for North Carolina to have a fighter,” Allam told the INDY before formally announcing her candidacy while standing in front of about two dozen reporters and “Major,” the 2,00-pound, 10-foot tall bronze bull in the heart of Durham’s downtown district.
Price, an educator-turned politician, was first elected to represent the Fourth District in 1987. Following GOP redistricting, Allam will campaign for the newly drawn Durham and Orange-focused Sixth District.
“David Price did a great job, but I’m ready to hit the ground running and push President Biden’s agenda,” Allam told the INDY. “There are Democrats in safe blue seats who are holding back President Biden’s Build Back Better plan.”
Allam, 27, made history last year when she became the first Muslim woman in the state elected to office as a Durham County Commissioner. Before assuming office on the county’s first all-female board of commissioners in its 140-year history, Allam served in several top spots with the state’s Democratic Party, including stints as political director of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and third vice-chair of the state’s Democratic Party, where she was the first Muslim American to serve on the party’s executive council.
In Congress, Allam would join a cadre of progressive, young Democratic Party members known as “The Squad:” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts), Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), Jamaal Bowman (D-New York), and Cori Bush (D-Missouri) who have all become lightning rods for some GOP members and Democrats alike in their support for the Medicare for All Act and a Green New Deal.
Someone asked Allam on Monday how she would respond to detractors who pointed to her young age and relative inexperience.
The county commissioner-turned-congressional campaigner noted that the average age in Durham is 36, and that her age group needed someone who would address issues that would affect them for the rest of their lives.
Describing herself as “a proud immigrant and Democrat,” Allam told her supporters and others gathered in front of Major that she’s at odds with Republicans who won’t raise the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which is the same as the state’s minimum wage.
She also wants to weigh in on immigration issues, climate change and expanding Medicaid. A Medicaid expansion policy made possible by the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 38 states. But 12 states—including North Carolina—opted to not take advantage of the federal health dollars.
As the INDY recently reported, the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid likely contributed to the U.S. Census Bureau findings that southern states had the highest rate of uninsured people in the country at 16.4 percent, compared to 11.3 percent who are uninsured in the West, and 6.6 percent uninsured in the Northeast. The progressive county commissioner also supports the Medicare for All Act of 2021 introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) and Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan). The proposed legislation would guarantee health care to nearly 100 million uninsured or underinsured people.
“It’s time to take our fight to the federal level to get the relief we deserve,” Allam said. “It’s time to pass Medicare for All. Health care is a human right.”
Allam said she supports a Green New Deal, saying there’s only a 10-year window “to save the planet.”
Allam, while citing the need for stronger federal hate crime legislation acknowledged the tragedy that gave birth to her political career: the 2015 deaths of her best friend Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; Yusor’s sister, Razan, 19; and Yusor’s husband, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23.
Police accused a neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, of fatally shooting the victims inside of their Chapel Hill condo, and charged him with triple homicide. Investigators later claimed they could not find sufficient evidence to prosecute the slayings as a hate crime, though Hicks had expressed bitter animus toward Muslims in social media posts.
Allam said instead of saying the shootings were a hate crime, the police said her friends’ deaths were “the result of a parking dispute.
“This is about honoring their legacy,” she said about her decision to seek higher office, and responding to “the urgency of the moment.
“Because progress can’t wait.”
In 2015, my three best friends were killed in a hate crime. In 2020, I became the first Muslim woman elected to office in NC—ever.
— Nida Allam (@NidaAllam) November 8, 2021
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.