Fauzia Rizvi is part of a growing trend of Muslim women running for public office in California. Although her district leans Republican, she thinks she can win enough voters across the aisle.

Fauzia Rizvi is running as a Democrat for State Assembly in a Republican-leaning district in Southern California. [Getty]

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 was a turning point for Fauzia Rizvi. When the former president proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, the Pakistani immigrant living in Southern California felt compelled to take her civic engagement to the next level.

Two years later, she decided to seek public office. In her first conversation with a consultant she had hired, she was told that she couldn’t win because of her looks, i.e. wearing the hijab.

“After that, I realized I’m going to do it. I’m going to push the limits,” she told The New Arab. “It was a bit naive to decide to run. I didn’t make it.”

With a background in water engineering, she ended up talking a lot about water during her campaign, an issue she says will be increasingly relevant in the future. Someone suggested she run for the board of the Western Municipal Water District, a position she currently holds.

What earned him some of his most significant experience in community organizing was with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Her friend, an oncologist, asked her to sew face masks for chemotherapy patients, back when personal protective equipment was in short supply. She and other volunteers made 20,000 hand-sewn masks for patients as well as essential workers. They made special masks for police and firefighters to match their uniforms for the city of Corona.

While helping to fight the pandemic, she learned that there was food insecurity in her community. She and her friends began hosting food drives at City Hall, which at the time was closed due to the pandemic.

“I wanted to make sure our communities were safe and nurtured,” she says. “Now is the time to show our values ​​that our faith has taught us and make sure our neighbors don’t go hungry.”

Now, on her third attempt, she is running for state assembly in a completely redrawn constituency with no incumbent and the support of Sabrina Cervantes, the official who previously represented part of the same constituency. His Republican opponent, Bill Essayli, son of Lebanese immigrants, is also Muslim, a rare occurrence in American politics.

As someone who moved from another part of Southern California to run for office in District 63, questions arose as to his legal residency. According to a local report dated October 27, he is still not registered to vote in the constituency where he is running, which would effectively mean that he could not vote for himself.

As the lone Democrat in the race, Rizvi has received the endorsement of major politicians and party associations in the state, including Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Alex Padilla, the California Democratic Party and major labor unions in the state. State.

But with a new district considered “plus three Republicans,” she has her work cut out to convince swing voters she’s the best choice. Although she was the first to win votes in the primaries, the polls tend to get tighter in general elections. Additionally, midterm elections tend to attract fewer voters than presidential election years, so turnout will be a big factor in the election outcome.

Recently, she says, she was door-to-door and she found herself at the door of a Republican, but that didn’t stop her from giving her campaign speech.

“I said, ‘Look, this is who I am. I’m running for state assembly. I have expertise in the field of water. He asked me where I was from. He said he was watching the news and he asked about my family. We talked about climate change. We had a good conversation for about 10 minutes,” she said.

“He said, ‘You have an amazing story. He said he never voted Democrat. He said, “It would be an honor to vote for you.” It was such a heartwarming conversation. Even though this is a big political change, so many in the community want good people. I want to take that and say not everyone is divided. If the right people don’t fight, then the wrong people win,” she says.

She also wants this race to be an example for young Muslim girls to see running for public office as a possibility for their future.

“I think it’s time. I see a lot more Muslims entering this space. I want to open the door for the next generation of Muslims,” ​​she says. “I want to make sure that we make sure that young girls wearing hijabs are in this space, so that they can enter it.”