July 27, 2016

Habib Could Become First Iranian-American to Hold Statewide Office

Washington, DC – From a young age, Cyrus Habib learned the importance of advocacy in the face of Cyrus_Habib_2014adversity. The candidate running for Washington state Lieutenant Governor is no stranger to adversity as a three time survivor of cancer which caused him to lose his eyesight at the age of eight. However,
Habib credits his parents as his inspiration for overcoming obstacles and teaching him the importance of advocacy. “Because of my parents’ strong beliefs that I should be able to do what any other kid was able to do, that belief really empowered me to become an advocate for myself and whether it was in the playground, or in the classroom, or in the workplace,” Habib says.

This support gave Habib momentum both academically – he is a graduate of Columbia University, Oxford University, and Yale Law – and politically – Habib currently serves as Democratic Whip in the Washington Senate. He credits his experience interning in then-Senator Hillary Clinton’s New York office for teaching him about the importance of the role of government. He began his work there just three days after the September 11th attacks. “That year really showed me the way that government, while it can’t do everything, really should be there for people when you have a person, a family, a city or even country that is in crisis,” reflects Habib.  

With this motivation to help and advocate for others, Habib could become the first Iranian American in history to hold statewide elected office if he wins his race to become lieutenant governor. He hopes to lead by example and encourage Iranian Americans to become increasingly politically active. Habib says Iranian Americans must express their views – especially at a time when discriminatory policies such as the H.R. 158 visa discrimination are being passed into law. Habib argued that H.R. 158 is “not only unfair and un-American, it’s also not a very effective way of keeping the homeland secure.” 

Though serving in the Washington legislature, Habib also took on one of the major national issues of importance to Iranian Americans – the nuclear agreement with Iran. He was the only elected official to sign on to the Support Peace petition, a public petition of prominent Iranian Americans urging Congress to support the nuclear accord when it came up for a vote.

According to Habib, Iranian Americans offer an important perspective on policies related to the Middle East. One way Iranian Americans can make their voices heard is by working together to organize and building institutions. Habib stated, “Through organizations like NIAC, perspectives [of Iranian Americans] are heard, because many Iranian Americans know firsthand what the conditions are in Iran and throughout the Middle East”.

Habib hopes to inspire other Iranian Americans to also become more engaged and to broadcast the ways Iranian Americans have contributed to the U.S on a daily basis. “By becoming the first Iranian American elected to statewide office,” Habib says, “I think my hope is that I can help illuminate the main contributions that Iranian-Americans make every day to our country.”

Want to help elect Cyrus? Donate to his campaign here: www.cyrushabib.com/niac

This is the sixth of many profiles in a series highlighting civically engaged Iranian Americans, as part of NIAC Action’s Beshkan the Vote campaign.

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