Somali American legislative candidate poised to make history

September 9, 2022 GMT
This undated photo provided by Mana Abdi, shows Democrat candidate for Maine Legislature Mana Abdi. Abdi’s path to office was cleared when her Republican candidate dropped out. If elected, she would be the first Somali American to serve in the Maine Legislature. (Courtesy Mana Abdi via AP)
This undated photo provided by Mana Abdi, shows Democrat candidate for Maine Legislature Mana Abdi. Abdi’s path to office was cleared when her Republican candidate dropped out. If elected, she would be the first Somali American to serve in the Maine Legislature. (Courtesy Mana Abdi via AP)
This undated photo provided by Mana Abdi, shows Democrat candidate for Maine Legislature Mana Abdi. Abdi’s path to office was cleared when her Republican candidate dropped out. If elected, she would be the first Somali American to serve in the Maine Legislature. (Courtesy Mana Abdi via AP)
This undated photo provided by Mana Abdi, shows Democrat candidate for Maine Legislature Mana Abdi. Abdi’s path to office was cleared when her Republican candidate dropped out. If elected, she would be the first Somali American to serve in the Maine Legislature. (Courtesy Mana Abdi via AP)
This undated photo provided by Mana Abdi, shows Democrat candidate for Maine Legislature Mana Abdi. Abdi’s path to office was cleared when her Republican candidate dropped out. If elected, she would be the first Somali American to serve in the Maine Legislature. (Courtesy Mana Abdi via AP)

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — A Democratic candidate is poised to become the first Somali American to serve in the Maine Legislature after her challenger dropped out of the race.

Republican Fred Sanborn-Silvers’ withdrawal last month cleared the path for Democrat Mana Abdi in her bid for Maine House District 95. Another Somali American, South Portland Mayor Deqa Dhalac, is also running for a different House seat.

If either wins, they would make history in the state.

Maine is home to thousands of immigrants from African nations, including many from Somalia who settled in Portland and Lewiston-Auburn. Several have held elected municipal positions, but none have been elected to the Legislature.

In House District 95, Sanborn-Silvers’ late departure prevented the GOP from coming up with a new candidate to run against Abdi.

Sanborn-Silvers indicated on social media that he’s no longer a candidate “due to legal reasons.” He didn’t return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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Sanborn-Silvers drew attention two years when he said on social media that “Muslims should not be allowed to hold public office.” He told Maine Public that it was misstatement, and that legal citizens should be able to run for office.

Abdi, 26, of Lewiston, said she’s not taking anything for granted. “I’m knocking on doors. Not much has changed. My priority is getting to know my constituents, and really earning their votes,” she said.

Abdi was born in a Kenyan refugee camp after her family fled war in Somalia. She attended Lewiston public schools, graduated from University of Maine at Farmington, and works at Bates College in the Office of Intercultural Education.

Dhalac, the South Portland mayor, also fled Somalia in the early 1990s as war broke out and settled in South Portland, where she served on the City Council. She’s running against Republican Michael Dougherty in House District 120.