November 01, 2004

Believing in Democracy

One of the more wonderful election stories is the congressional race that is happening in Ventura County this year. Here is a story about an naturalized citizen, a Saudi Arabian woman, and today a high school civics teacher who is running for the Congress in California as a Democrat in a Republican district and who can, perhaps, win tomorrow.

When the Legislature redrew California's electoral map in 2000, this affluent suburb north of Los Angeles was designed as a safe Republican seat, where Assemblyman Tony Strickland could easily pass the job on to his wife when he was termed out.

But as that day arrives, Audra Strickland is facing a real contest from one of the unlikeliest of challengers: a 55-year-old high school civics teacher named Ferial Masry. A native of Saudi Arabia who became a U.S. citizen five years ago, Masry was a write-in candidate in the Democratic primary in March. Seeing the strong edge in Republican voter registration, the California Democratic Party ignored her campaign, providing no consulting or ground troops and virtually no money.

Someone, however, forgot to tell Masry she is supposed to lose.

"It's difficult, especially when you're an underdog and not funded," she said. Nevertheless, when she was asked to run, she thought: "If I run, it means I'm running. There are no half-measures."

The result has been a surprisingly polished brand of retail politics, meeting and greeting voters wherever she can, combined with a media campaign that has garnered her as much attention in the Middle East as it has in California.

Ferial Masry's story is wonderful on a number of fronts:

  1. She is someone who came to the United States and believed in our form of government so much that she chose to teach civics to high school students.
  2. She has inspired countless women in the Middle East who are thrilled to see a woman from Saudi Arabia running for election and participating fully in public life.
  3. She is the underdog in a Republican county in a race that is reawakening people in her district about what it means to have a real democratic election.

However tomorrow's election goes, her story will continue to thrill and inspire citizens here and women throughout the Middle East. Can you imagine how pleased and proud her civic class students must be of their teacher?

Go Ferial Masry!

Posted by Mary at November 1, 2004 10:13 PM | Elections | Technorati links |