Ghazala Hashmi on becoming Virginia’s first female Muslim state Senator: “People see it as a sign of hope”


Democrats took control of all three branches of government in Virginia this week for the first time in a generation, winning majorities in the House and Senate. One of those winning leaders was Ghazala Hashmi, who unseated an incumbent Republican to become the first Muslim-American woman elected to Virginia’s state Senate. 

Hashmi told CBSN Friday that Americans saw her victory as a “sign of hope” in a toxic political climate. 

“This has been such a positive campaign, and just a tremendous experience — not just for myself, but for so many people throughout the country,” Hashmi said. “I’ve been getting messages and phone calls from people throughout the nation, and people see it as a sign of hope that we really are a nation that embraces diversity, and that we value the premise of inclusivity.” 

Hashmi said she knew she wanted to run for office when that diversity felt threatened — specifically, when the Trump administration proposed its controversial Muslim ban. 

“I had a moment of panic, where I had to wonder whether after living here nearly 50 years … whether I had a home anymore, whether I was welcome here,” Hashmi said. “And I had to prove that answer, not just for myself, but for so many people who feel marginalized. And Tuesday’s election was a sign that we absolutely embrace diversity in this country.” 

Virginia’s elections received nationwide attention — and visits from politicians including Vice President Mike Pence and former Vice President Joe Biden — because of the signals they could send ahead of 2020. 

But Hashmi emphasized that her victory wasn’t just a backlash against President Trump. 

“I know there was an undercurrent of people feeling very disenfranchised, and also distressed over national-level politics,”  she said. “But what I heard the most when I was talking to voters at their doors and speaking to so many folks in the community is that they really wanted a Virginia assembly that focuses on the issues that matter to them.” 

“The issues that were at the top of the concern for many of my voters were revolving around making sure that we have quality public education, that we support health care access to all Virginians, and that we really focus on common-sense gun safety legislation,” she added. “And so my campaign concentrated on those three areas, and voters responded to that.” 

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