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November 10, 2020

The Impact of NIAC Action on the 2020 Election

This election cycle, NIAC Action and the Iranian-American community showed up with an unprecedented level of civic strength. From raising hundreds-of-thousands of dollars for our endorsees, to supporting the largest slate of Iranian-American candidates ever, to contacting nearly 70,000 voters as part of the largest Iranian-American voter turnout initiative in history, our community showed up and turned out. 

Below is a breakdown of our successes and how NIAC Action and our members helped elect a President and Congressional candidates dedicated to advancing peace and diplomacy,  securing equitable immigration policies, and protect the of civil rights of all Americans: 

Success of NIAC Endorsees 

As of November 5th, NIAC Action endorsees won 13 out of 18 races, with one additional race going to a runoff and three races having yet to be called. For live results on all our races, please see our 2020 Election Hub Tracker

This election season, more Iranian-Amereican candidates ran for office than ever before. Some highlights of our Iranian-American candidates include Anna Eskamani, who won a resounding victory in her bid for reelection for the Florida House of Delegates in District 47. In 2018, she was one of the first Iranian American women elected to their state’s legislatures. Shireen Ghorbani (D-UT) also won her reelection bid in Utah for the Salt Lake City Council. And in Happy Valley, Oregon, David Emami successfully fended off his challenger, securing another term as Councilor of the City Council.    

Sepi Shyne made history as the first Iranian American and first LGBTQ Iranian woman elected to West Hollywood City Council, defeating one of the city’s longest-serving Council members. Sepi previously ran for the seat in 2019 and came within one percent of ousting the incumbent. In Santa Cruz, CA, Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson also won her first election in her bid for a seat on the Santa Cruz City Council.  

Two candidates are still in the running. Yassamin Ansari, who finished first in a five-way race for Phoenix City Council, now heads into a run-off election in March 2021 where, if elected, will win her first race for public office. And Siamak Khadjenoury’s race for the Utah House of Delegates has not been called yet. He is currently trailing the Republican incumbent by just 235 votes. 

 

NIAC Action endorsees in the House of Representatives largely swept their races, despite some Democratic candidates facing expensive and hotly contested races. Notable wins in swing districts were secured by NIAC Action endorsees Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) and Peter DeFazio (OR-4), both of whom faced heavily-backed GOP challengers. Similarly, Katie Porter (CA-45), whose profile and popularity has skyrocketed in the last two years, exceeded expectations in what was supposed to be a closely contested race in a traditionally Red district. NIAC Action endorsee Harley Rouda (CA-48)’s race in Orange County, CA has yet to be called.

All other NIAC Action endorsees in the House handily won their bids for re-election, including ٍReps. Illhan Omar (MN-5), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Pramila Jayapal (WA-7), Seth Moulton (MA-6), and Ro Khanna (CA-17)

 

NIAC Action did not endorse any Senate candidates but our members provided financial support for many of the crucial races needed to flip the Senate. At least two challenger candidates defeated pro-Trump incumbents in the Senate, including Mark Kelly (D) in Arizona and former Governor John Hickenlooper (D) in Colorado, both of whom are supportive of the JCPOA and more equitable immigration policies.

Two other Senate candidates remain in the running in Georgia, Jon Ossoff (D) and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D). The two candidates are heading into a special election on January 5, 2021 where the outcome of the races will determine the fate of the Senate. 

NIAC Action helped secure commitments from all the major Democratic presidential candidates as well as in the Democratic National Committee platform to return the U.S. to its commitments under the Iran nuclear agreement and to rescind the Muslim Ban. When Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee, we put the question to our members on whether to endorse him — and 86% voted yes. We were proud to support the Biden/Harris campaign with significant financial support from our membership and sending over 250 volunteers to phonebank in the battleground states.

Spearheading Unprecedented Levels of Iranian-American Civic Engagement

Never before were the stakes of a single election so significant to the Iranian-American community and NIAC’s response was to mobilize the community and organize. To support our endorsees and a Congressional majority that would champion our issues, NIAC Action created the largest mobilization campaign for the Iranian-American community in history that delivered on election day: 

  • In the lead up to the election, NIAC Action created 12 volunteer chapters across the country to help organize and galvanize our community in this crucial moment. Buttressing these chapters are 20 newly trained volunteer organizers to lead these volunteers in the months and years to come.
  • These chapters, with the help of our tireless Organizing staff, conducted 28 phone and text banks in support of candidates such as Vice President Biden, Rep. Tom Malinowski, among several others, making over 29,000 calls to voters, sent almost 37,000 text messages, all with a team of over 260 volunteers.
  • NIAC Action volunteers often made up over 50% of the volunteers dialing voters at the phone banks we promoted for our endorsees. For example, our Los Angeles Chapter Elections Coordinators recruited over 80% of the volunteers making calls for Sepi Shyne’s campaign.
  • Of the 10 candidates that we held volunteer events for, 6 of them won their races, showing the impact the Iranian-American community can have if we stay mobilized and engaged throughout the election cycle.
  • The volunteer relationships we have built up during this campaign cycle create a foundation for our organization to build on. Now, we have an engaged volunteer base that will help put pressure on Washington to come good on their promises to our community. 

NIAC Action’s Financial Impact on the Election

This cycle, the Iranian American community was a financial powerhouse among the immigrant and second-generation communities: 

  • NIAC Action raised over $540,000 for its 39 supported candidates for Congress and the White House, making it one of our largest election fundraising successes to date
  • NIAC Action members collectively contributed over $385K for the Presidential race, $63K to Senate candidates, $35K to House candidates, $17K to Iranian-American candidates, and an additional $39K directly to the PAC. $31,500 of direct PAC contributions supported 12 NIAC Action House endorsees, of which 8 won their reelection races with an additional House incumbent candidate whose votes are still being counted.
  • NIAC Action also hosted and sponsored 13 fundraising and cultivation events with candidates and surrogates, giving NIAC Action and its members a seat at the table with real power to push forward to legislative and civic agenda.
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