PAAIA Celebrates Historic Election for Iranian Americans

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Press Release by Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA)

Washington, DC - The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) a
nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonsectarian organization serving the interests of
Iranian Americans, congratulates Oklahoma State Senator Stephanie Bice (R-OK),
Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-FL), New York State Senator Anna
Kaplan (D-NY) and Phoenix’s City Council candidate Yassamin Ansari for their
successes in the 2020 election – a truly historic moment for the Iranian
American community.

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Bice made history by becoming the first Iranian American elected to Congress,
and the highest-ranking Iranian American in the U.S. government. Eskamani and
Kaplan have both won their bids for reelection. In 2018, both women made history
by becoming the first Iranian Americans elected to their state’s legislatures.
Ansari finished first place in her race for Phoenix’s City Council and will head
into a run-off election against the second-place winner.
In Utah, preliminary election results also show that Salt Lake City Councilwoman
Shireen Ghorbani (D-UT) is leading in her bid for reelection, and in California,
Sepi Shyne is ahead in her race for West Hollywood City Council.

“This is a powerful moment for the Iranian American community,” explained
PAAIA Executive Director Leila Austin. ”PAAIA is proud to support these
incredible women and the other Iranian American candidates who ran for elected
office this year. This cycle, we have seen a tremendous rise in interest
among Iranian Americans willing to serve their communities in public office.”  

This year the bipartisan Iranian
American Political Action Committee (IAPAC)
, PAAIA’s connected political
action committee (PAC), supported an unprecedented number of Iranian American
candidates running for federal, state, and local office this election,
demonstrating the community’s overall increased interest in participating in the
U.S. civic and democratic process.

For information about the candidates and their races, read below.

Stephanie Bice

State Senator Stephanie Bice ran a competitive campaign against first-term
incumbent Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK/5th), winning
with 52.1% of the vote.
 Her opponent for Oklahoma’s 5th congressional
district received 47.9% of the vote. Senator Bice’s electoral victory makes her
the first Iranian American elected to Congress and the highest ranking Iranian
American in the U.S. government.

Senator Bice was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate District 22 in 2014.
She served for two years as Assistant Majority Floor Leader in the Oklahoma
Senate and is Chair of Senate Finance Committee. Senator Bice’s leadership
skills and abilities garnered state and national attention. She received the
Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce Rising Star award and was selected a member
of the Governing Institute Women in Government Leadership Class of 2016.

Senator Bice’s campaign has
been endorsed by numerous groups, including the Empower America Project,
Maggie’s List, the National Rifle Association, and more.

Anna Eskamani

State House Representative Anna Eskamani, first elected to the Florida State
House in 2018, ran an impressive reelection campaign for the Florida State
House’s 47th district. Unofficial results show that she easily faced off her
Republican challenger by
capturing 59% of the vote

A PhD candidate in Public Affairs, an adjunct professor, and a former Senior
Director for Planned Parenthood, Representative Eskamani is dedicated to helping
her community. Her desire to reach out to those who feel isolated by the
political process and her deep love for Orlando inspired her to run for office
in 2018. She has been a lifelong community builder and was elected to serve in
the Florida State House District 47 in 2018 by an overwhelming majority, making
her the first Iranian American elected to the Florida State Legislature.

Representative Eskamani’s campaign has been endorsed by
numerous organizations and public officials including the Orlando Sentinel,
Congressman Dan Soto (D-FL/9th), Orlando City Commissioner Bakari Burns, Emily’s
List, Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club and more.

Anna Kaplan

State Senator Anna Kaplan ran a great race in her bid for reelection to New York
State Senate’s 7th district. Unofficial
 show a tight race for the congressional seat, with Senator Kaplan
securing 51.9% of the vote and her Republican challenger capturing 48.1% of the
vote. A historically Republican seat, Senator Kaplan made history this election
by being the first Democrat to earn re-election to New York State Senate’s
7th district.

An active participant in her community, a mother, and a political refugee,
Senator Kaplan decided to run for public office to combat the hateful rhetoric
she sees dominating our political culture and to give back to the state and
country that have given her so much. She made history in 2018 when she was
elected to the New York State Senate as the first former refugee and Iranian
American to be elected to the New York State Legislature.

Her campaign has
been endorsed by numerous elected officials and organizations including
 Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, the
Business Council of New York State, and more.

Yassamin Ansari

Yassamin Ansari ran a competitive campaign for Phoenix City Council, finishing
in first place with 33% of the vote.
 She will move on to a runoff election
to face the challenger who received second place with 32% of the vote. If
successful in her run-off election, Ansari would make history as the first
Iranian American elected to office in the state of Arizona.

Yassamin Ansari is a Phoenix native who began her career as a John Gardner
Fellow in the Executive Office of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in
2014, where she served as the youngest member of the climate team that advised
the Secretary-General and helped to deliver the historic Paris Agreement. Later,
she served as the Director of the Climate Action 2016 Summit in Washington D.C.,
and as the Deputy Director of Policy for Governor Jerry Brown’s Global Climate
Action Summit in San Francisco. For her extensive work on climate action, Ansari
was recognized by Forbes as “30 Under 30” in the Law & Policy category in 2020,
and as a Grist 50 “Fixer”- “the people cooking up the boldest, most innovative
solutions to fix the biggest challenges that face our globe.

Her campaign has
been endorsed by numerous elected officials, including Rep. Greg Stanton
(D-AZ/9th), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ/7th), Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, former
Mayor of Phoenix Phil Gordon, and many more.

Shireen Ghorbani

Councilwoman Shireen Ghorbani leads in
preliminary results for her re-election to Utah’s Salt Lake County Council with
53% of the vote. While the race has yet to be called, Councilwoman Ghorbani is
on a solid path to victory.

Councilwoman Ghorbani was elected to
the at-large seat in 2019 to fill the vacancy created when Jenny Wilson became
Salt Lake County Mayor. Councilwoman Ghorbani made history with this election as
the first Iranian American elected to office in the state of Utah. She is
running for reelection for her first full term (6 years) as an at-large
representative. She has served in the Peace Corps, obtained two master’s
degrees, and is currently employed at the University of Utah in communications
and organizational development. Councilwoman Ghorbani also has over 20 years of
advocacy experience working with and supporting victims of sexual violence, and
she currently serves as the Board Chair for a local non-profit that works with
victims of sexual violence.

Councilwoman Ghorbani has been endorsed by
Patriotic Millionaires, the People for Bernie, Frack Free Four Corners, and

Sepi Shyne

Sepi Shyne is ahead in preliminary results for her election to one of two
at-large West Hollywood City Council seats. While the reporting for the election
has not completed, her odds look good with her capturing
the most votes of any competitor with 23.49% of the vote
. For Shyne to win,
she needs to only be in first or second place. The second-place candidate
currently has 21.71% of the vote, while the third-place candidate has 18.59% of
the vote.

Sepi Shyne is a business law attorney, small business owner, feminist and civil
rights advocate. As an LBGTQ+ leader, she has led many boards and organizations
over the past 20 years including the LGBT Bar Association of Los Angeles in
which she served as a co-president. Shyne currently serves the City of West
Hollywood as an appointed Business License Commissioner and County of Los
Angeles as an appointed member of the LA County Assessor’s Advisory Council.

Her campaign has been endorsed by
numerous current and former local elected officials, community leaders, and
organizations, including Los Angeles City Council Member-elect Kevin DeLeon, Los
Angeles County Federation of Labor, and the Sierra Club.

ABOUT PAAIA: The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian
Americans, PAAIA, Inc., is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, nonreligious 501(c)(4)
organization that serves the interests of Iranian Americans and represents the
community before U.S. policymakers and the American public at large.

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