June 2, 2022 By Christian Murray
Rana Abdelhamid, an Astoria progressive who mounted a campaign for the 12th Congressional District, announced Tuesday that she is no longer running due to redistricting.
Abdelhamid, a young Muslim woman who entered the race more than a year ago with the backing of Justice Democrats, issued a statement Tuesday noting that the new map had cut her out of the district.
“Today, I am formally suspending my campaign for Congress,” she said. “After nearly two years of putting together this effort, this was a very difficult decision to make. But because my community and I were cut out of our district, we were left with no other choice.”
Abdelhamid, who had raised nearly $1 million from more than 11,000 donors, was trying to defeat incumbent Carolyn Maloney, who has been in congress for nearly three decades.
Abdelhamid announced that she was running in April 2021 at a Little Egypt coffee shop on Steinway Street and had been endorsed by many progressive groups and officials—including the Working Families Party of New York, New York Communities for Change, as well as former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, City Comptroller Brad Lander and a number of city council members.
“Rana is a Queens kid, like myself, and a child of working-class Egyptian immigrants,” said progressive Councilmember Tiffany Cabán, who is also an Astoria resident and endorsed Abdelhamid.
“She has spent the last decade organizing across New York City to fight against gentrification, supporting small businesses, and addressing challenges of food insecurity before and during the pandemic,” Cabán added.
“Rana’s movement demonstrated that there is, without a doubt, a real appetite for a new generation of bold leadership for our country.”
Abdelhamid had hoped to beat Maloney much like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did when she toppled Joe Crowley in June 2018. Her campaign, she said, had made more than 100,000 phone calls and her 700 volunteers.
The revised maps, which were finalized mid-May, radically changed the shape of the 12th District, cutting out Queens and Brooklyn—and creating a more compact district in Manhattan.
The map was created by an independent court-appointed special master, who was appointed to draft the congressional maps across the state. The special master was appointed after a state Supreme Court judge ruled that state Democrats gerrymandered the districts in their favor when they created the initial maps.
The revised district map has cut the Queens and Brooklyn portions of the current 12th District into two.
Astoria has become part of the 14th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Ocasio-Cortez, while Long Island City, Greenpoint and Williamsburg have been folded into the 14th Congressional District, currently represented by Nydia Velázquez. Both congressmembers are Hispanic women.
Abdelhamid argues that the new map was “drawn through an undemocratic process” and took a swipe at Maloney—who now faces a fierce battle with Rep. Jerry Nadler for the seat—for trying to remove the minority communities from the district.
“From the very beginning, Carolyn Maloney fought to remove the Queens and Brooklyn-based communities of color from her district,” Abdelhamid said. “She got exactly what she wanted: a fully Manhattan district and my community kicked out the door.”
Abdelhamid has been a fierce critic of Maloney since she announced her candidacy, arguing that Maloney voted to deregulate Wall Street and supported punitive “tough on crime” legislation.
She also criticized Maloney for supporting the wars in the Middle East and for wearing a burqa on the House floor to draw attention to Afghanistan’s treatment of women.
Maloney, however, dismissed these attacks and says she is a progressive. A Maloney spokesperson noted that she supports the Green New Deal and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
I was 9 years old when I watched my Congresswoman wear a burqa in Congress to justify the invasion of Afghanistan.
For the rest of my life, I knew that as a Muslim woman my identity would be weaponized to justify American wars.
20 years of war later, what did we accomplish? pic.twitter.com/er5xnbaTqc
— Rana Abdelhamid (@RanaForCongress) August 16, 2021
But Abdelhamid took issue with the new district based on demographics.
“The new NY-12…no longer includes Queens or Brooklyn. That means that my home and my community which includes, working class, Black and brown, Muslim and Arab immigrant communities of interest in Queens, were all divided into two districts, NY-7 and NY-14, diluting our opportunity for representation and political power.”
She said the new maps are “reminiscent of an ongoing legacy of noninclusive gerrymandering which continues to rob communities of interest like my own of the opportunity for representation.”
“For a community with no representation in New York City politics, for a community that was harassed and profiled by law enforcement for years, a community that continues to be gentrified, whose story is barely told, that glimpse of representation was a dream.”
Abdelhamid, who graduated from Middlebury College and the Harvard Kennedy School—and reportedly works for Google, advocated for a range of progressive policies such as the Green New Deal, Medicare For All, affordable housing and an end to mass incarceration.
She said, when she released a video announcing her campaign, that these were issues of significance to her and shared stories about her parents. She also said she became an activist at the age of 16 after a man on the street tried to snatch her hijab off her head.
Her campaign was not without controversy. Prior to the final map being drafted, she tried to kick Suraj Patel, a first generation American, out of the Democratic primary by challenging the signatures he collected that were needed to get on the ballot.
She questioned the validity of his signatures, but her claims were rejected by the Board of Elections.
Abdelhamid, an activist and community organizer, will not be leaving the political arena.
“When the opportunity presents itself, we will be more than ready than ever to achieve the electoral representation we deserve, because we have this infrastructure and the power behind us.”
I was 16 when a man grabbed my hijab and tried to rip it from my head.
New Yorkers helped me find the courage to fight back and organize for safety and power.
— Rana Abdelhamid (@RanaForCongress) April 14, 2021