Darius Shahinfar, the first generation American of Iranian descent who captivated the attention and interest of the Iranian American community from coast to coast, lost his bid to be the Democratic nominee for New York’s 21st Congressional District last night. The disappointing result was the culmination of a ten month journey which saw Mr. Shahinfar embrace his Iranian-American heritage and identity. The long-shot candidacy of Shahinfar in a five-person field was particularly notable for the serious amount of money he was able to raise for a political neophyte in his first election.
Paul Tonka, a 25-year veteran of the New York State Assembly, won the nomination on Tuesday night with 39% of the vote out of over 38,000 cast. His victory was due, in large measure, to the very strong showing in his Assembly district which is almost completely in the 21st Congressional District. The other favorite in the race, Tracy Brooks, a three year veteran of Senator Hillary Clinton’s political organization, received about 30% of the vote, while Shahinfar came in a distant fourth with 3,879 votes at 10%.
Shahinfar, did attract the attention and respect of political observers for his fundraising prowess during the primary. In his last FEC filing on August 20th, he reported a total of over $330,000 raised for the primary, a significant portion of which came from the Iranian American community including an endorsement from the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC).
This Democratic Primary was among a dozen closely watched races in New York decided last night. The race was closely followed at the Albany Project Blog which specializes in all things political in the Empire State. Colin Abele, a political observer who closely monitored the race interviewed Shahinfar and his rivals during the primary and told NIAC that he was “very impressed with Darius, he ran an excellent campaign on true American values.”
With his run, he has put himself on the political map in New York and is likely to run for other elective office in the future. Shahinfar’s candidacy follows in the footsteps of other notable Iranian-Americans who have run for national political office including 2000 Maryland Republican Primary Senate candidate Sohrab Sobhani and 2004 Republican nominee for Oregon’s 1st Congressional District Goli Ameri.
Currently, there are several Iranian Americans in local elective office including Mayor of Beverly Hills, Jimmy Delshad and San Francisco Board of Supervisor Ross Mir-Karimi while others running for elective office include Amir Farokhi running for a seat in the Atlanta city council, and Ahsha Safai running for City Council in San Francisco.
Shahinfar’s candidacy was remarkable in that a relatively unknown candidate of Iranian descent was able to raise a substantial amount of money from the Iranian-American community. This was an important marker for increasing the visibility of our community and showing the political world that we are engaged in the political process. As the Iranian American community engages more directly in the American political process, local leaders are emerging that may one day represent their constituency and our community in the halls of Congress.
You can join the conversation about this race and what it means for the community at NIAC’s blog: www.NIACinsight.com.
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