Somali who was target of threats wins US municipal election

CORRECTS SPELLING OF LAST NAME TO KHALID INSTEAD OF KAHLID – Safiya Khalid speaks at a candidates forum at Geiger Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. Lewiston, a city in Maine which is usually home to thousands of African newcomers, elected Khalid, a Somali American to its city council after she soundly defeated a fellow Democrat on Tuesday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal via AP)

CORRECTS SPELLING OF LAST NAME TO KHALID INSTEAD OF KAHLID – Safiya Khalid speaks at a candidates forum at Geiger Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine. Lewiston, a city in Maine which is usually home to thousands of African newcomers, elected Khalid, a Somali American to its city council after she soundly defeated a fellow Democrat on Tuesday. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal via AP)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The second-largest city in Maine, home to thousands of African newcomers, has elected a Somali American to its city council following a campaign which was marred by racists attacks along with also threats fueled by social media.

Safiya Khalid, 23, soundly defeated a fellow Democrat on Tuesday for a seat on the Lewiston City Council.

Shrugging off attacks on her skin shade along with also faith, Khalid declared which “community organizers beat internet trolls.”

The attacks didn’t seem to faze voters. Khalid won with nearly 70% of the vote to make history within the former mill city.

“I worked actually hard. I knocked on thousands of doors. which’s what paid off,” Khalid told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.

Maine is usually the nation’s whitest state, however the item is usually home to a growing population of Africans who’ve fled their homeland.

First- along with also second-generation candidates by four African countries — Somalia, Congo, Ghana along with also Nigeria — won seats on city councils along with also school committees across the state, continuing an established trend, said Mufalo Chitam, executive director of the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.

“There’s been a push for us to have bigger representation in office within the towns,” she said. “which’s where the decisions are made. If we’re not in those offices, then someone is usually going to make the decisions for us.”

In Lewiston, ugly hateful messages, mostly by out of state, targeted Khalid. Someone said she should be stoned. Another shared her home address on a Facebook group. Some of the attacks drove her to tears.

Opponents spread a photo of her when she was a 15-year-old high school freshman flipping off the camera. The photo taken by a friend.

“I was a child,” she said. “I was 15. I didn’t know any better.”

Khalid deleted the Facebook app by her cellphone along with also deactivated her Twitter account. Then she focused on continuing to knock on doors in her ward whenever she wasn’t at her job as a caseworker.

Mainers generally don’t like outsiders meddling in their affairs, so the out-of-state social media trolling could’ve backfired to a certain extent, Lewiston voter Amber St. Onge said.

“A teenager pointing a middle finger is usually not a big scandal,” added Abdifatah Afrah, of Lewiston. “which’s nothing compared to what we see within the news with politicians every day.”

Somalis began moving to Lewiston two decades ago in search of affordable housing after many settled in Portland, 36 miles (58 kilometers) away. The city of 36,000, second in population in Maine only to Portland, is usually at This kind of point home to more than 5,000 Africans.

Khalid was born in Somalia along with also remembers living in a refugee camp before coming to the United States.

As a city councilor, she wants to ensure which there’s affordable housing which’s free by lead contamination, which is usually a problem within the city’s older housing stock. She wants to boost aging infrastructure, bring in investment, along with also support local businesses. She also wants to boost schools.

“When I came here, I didn’t know how to write my name or speak any word of English. I am who I am because of public education. Our children deserve the highest-quality education,” she said.

Lewiston Mayor Kristen Cloutier said she was impressed by the poise showed by the young politician to ensure people in her community are represented along with also have a seat at the table.

Khalid will be the youngest person on the council in January.

“If those (messages) had been directed at me, I would likely’ve been hiding under my bed,” Cloutier said. “I don’t know which I would likely’ve had the courage to fight another day. which speaks to her resiliency along with also her dedication.”

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