PAAIA Celebrates Historic Election for Iranian Americans

For Immediate Release:
Contact:  Emily Pappas
Email: epappas@cogent-strategies.com
Phone: (231) 357-6330

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), Phoenix’s City Council candidate Yassamin Ansari, and San Francisco Board Supervisor Ahsha Safaí for their successes in the 2020 election – a truly historic moment for the Iranian American community.

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 results 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 others.

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.

Ahsha Safaí

Ahsha Safaí serves as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, having represented district 11 since January of 2017.  Prior to his election, Safaí worked under Mayors Willie Brown and Mayor Gavin Newsom with the San Francisco Housing Authority, the Mayor’s Office of Community Development, and the Department of Public Works. He is a passionate advocate for children and working families and believes that change begins at the local level where people are most affected by government policies and programs.

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