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Los Angeles/Arab American woman for State Assembly

by Debby Sadler Monday, Oct. 18, 2004 at 11:09 AM

A local Arab American woman runs as a common sense candidate for California State Assembly

Los Angeles/Arab Ame...
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the first Arab American woman to run for California State Assembly is making headway and getting a lot of support. Im actually a registered republican but given the fact that Audra Strickland is being financed by tobacco, oil, gas, horse racing, and trial lawyers there is no way I could support her. She sure wont represent Ventura County.



Ferial Masry Shines in Campaign Overview; Endorsed by Green Candidate

Ferial Masry (D) has been the focus of yet another story in the local media, this time written by Ventura County Star veteran political correspondent Timm Herdt.

The story covers what has become familiar ground for those following the campaign for the California Assembly seat in the 37th district. Masry’s unique journey to America, her reverence for the political process and the values enshrined in our Constitution, and her commitment to the community that has been her home for over two-and-one-half decades is once again discussed.

Also mentioned is the national and international attention that the campaign has generated, in large part due to the fact that it showcases the opportunities and freedoms that make America the envy of the world. Where else in the world could an immigrant be accepted so thoroughly in her community that she could credibly run for office to represent it in the legislature?

The article breaks new ground, however, in publicizing what can only be called an endorsement of Ferial Masry by her opponent, Green Party candidate Adrienne Prince:

"I really think we have a treasure in Ferial Masry," said Prince, 39. "I'll vote for myself because I want to make sure I get some votes, but I encourage other people to vote for her."

The final contestant, Audra Strickland (R), continues to pursue the same a low-profile campaign, relying on her last name (shared with husband and current Assemblyman Tony Strickland) and lobbyists in Sacramento. This strategy was successful in securing a slim victory in the Republican primary. However, one wonders if such a strategy, which was successful in a fractured field, will bear fruit given that Strickland secured less than 40% of the Republican votes last March.

With Prince’s endorsement of Masry, Strickland will not be facing a divided opposition. And Masry, who considers herself a winner simply for being able to participate in the democratic process, continues to have success – true to American tradition – in convincing the community to vote for the person, not simply the party label.

Ventura County Star,1375,VCS_166_32

Three are vying for Assembly seat in the 37th

Saudi-born Democrat gains global attention

By Timm Herdt, therdt (at)

September 29, 2004

Regardless of the outcome on Nov. 2, the next elected representative from the 37th Assembly District will be a woman.

This would hardly be worth noting in contemporary American politics, where female elected officials in partisan offices are commonplace although still a minority. But in this case, there's a twist: The possibility of one of the women winning has become international news.

In the Arab world, the candidacy of Democrat Ferial Masry of Newbury Park, a Saudi Arabian immigrant born in Mecca, is such a novelty that she has been featured on magazine covers in Kuwait City and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, interviewed on the Arab-language television network Al-Jazeera and enlisted by the State Department to spread the word to her homeland about the opportunities American life affords Muslim women.

"I am the first woman born in Saudi Arabia to have her picture in a magazine without a veil -- and on the cover!" Masry said. "I have become like a poster child for change there."

Masry's surprise entry into the race -- she qualified as the Democratic nominee by virtue of a rare write-in campaign -- has added interest and intrigue to what would ordinarily be a pro-forma campaign in an Assembly district that was drawn to virtually guarantee a Republican winner. The GOP enjoys an 11 percentage-point advantage in voter registration, 45.3 percent to 34.3 percent.

Primary battle

The value of the Republican nomination is such that it inspired a .6 million, four-candidate battle in the March primary. Audra Strickland, a private school teacher from Moorpark, emerged as the survivor.

Her victory was greatly aided by the fact she is the wife of incumbent Assemblyman Tony Strickland, a relationship that gave her instant name recognition and access to Sacramento-based campaign contributors. Tony Strickland, having served three terms, is prohibited by term limits from seeking re-election.

The third candidate on the ballot is Adrienne Prince, a Camarillo book editor, who is the Green Party nominee.

The district includes Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Camarillo, Santa Paula, Fillmore, Ojai and those portions of Simi Valley south of Royal Avenue.

For all the money and attention devoted to the free-for-all Republican primary in March, it was Masry who emerged with the highest profile after collecting 1,693 write-in votes. County Democrats encouraged her to run after the party's initial candidate failed to turn in his nomination papers, leaving the party without a named candidate on the March ballot. Because she collected more than 1,200 write-in votes, Masry's name will appear on ballots in November.

National news organizations and political observers found her story compelling. Not only is she a Muslim woman and a Saudi Arabian immigrant running for office in a time of anti-Arabic tension, she also is the mother of an Army reservist, Omar, who this summer returned from a tour of duty in Iraq.

Peter Jennings and ABC News featured her as their "Person of the Week." State Democratic Party officials escorted her to the national convention in Boston.

Masry said her achievement in the primary has allowed her to become a "bridge-builder," by improving relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States, by serving as a role model for oppressed Muslim women and, most importantly, becoming a symbol of hope for Arab-Americans.

"The Arab-Muslim community has been feeling alienated," she said. "They feel there is no hope or that there is nothing happening that's positive. This opens their eyes that America really is diverse and that there is a road for them."

Masry, 55, immigrated to the United States in 1974, earned a teaching credential from California Lutheran University and now teaches 12th-grade American history. She harbors no illusions about her chances of winning in the Republican-dominated district.

"I'm a winner already," she said. "I'm practicing what I love. To me, winning is the process itself. ... I've really made a big impact and I've given a lot of people hope. That, to me, is a winner."

Opponent's support

During the campaign, Masry has picked up a number of new supporters. Among them is Prince, her Green Party opponent.

"I really think we have a treasure in Ferial Masry," said Prince, 39. "I'll vote for myself because I want to make sure I get some votes, but I encourage other people to vote for her."

Strickland, 30, on leave from her job as a teacher at a private Christian school, has nothing negative to say about Masry.

"I don't know enough about her," Strickland said. "I do know enough about the district to know that the voters share my values. Lower taxes, less government -- that's where the heart of the district lies."

Strickland flatly opposes any tax increase and also is consistently opposed to government borrowing. During a four-month stint on the Ventura County School Board, she voted against a resolution supporting passage of a statewide bond for school construction. In March, she opposed the deficit bonds that were the linchpin of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plans to bring the state budget into balance without tax increases.

Masry said she would be open to higher taxes on the wealthy if she felt they were needed to improve public education or support other social goals such as affordable housing.

"You work hard, but you also have to pay your share," she said. "Some people think that the state is a milking cow. They milk, milk, milk, but they don't want to feed."

Masry, who was educated in Egypt after her mother sent her and her sisters out of the country so they could attend school, said she is a passionate supporter of a public education. She would like to see more effort devoted to teacher training and believes greater attention should be devoted to teaching immigrant children.

Strickland said she personally supports state-issued vouchers to allow parents to use tax money to send children to private schools, but noted that it is not a realistic idea because California voters have rejected it on the ballot.

"The people of California weren't ready for it," she said. "The voters have already spoken."

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