Candidate Forums Begin for Hamtramck Mayor

By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – Last week, Omar Thabet’s MotivateMe313 hosted a candidate forum for Mayoral hopefuls, showing the priorities, background knowledge, and philosophy underpinning the campaigns of four community members.

This Saturday, the Yemeni American Political Action Committee will host the candidates again for a forum at the Golden Gates Hall in Hamtramck, providing voters with another opportunity to see the candidates weighed against each other.

The last candidate forum saw questions as broad as the role of the mayor in connecting Hamtramck’s diverse communities. However the questions did stay topical, such as the way a mayor could lead an effort to alleviate flooding.

“All in all, if the forum helped the community understand a little more about the candidates, then I’m happy to say that the job was done,” Thabet said.

Candidates were able to differentiate themselves, with each one coming in with a distinct trait that could convince voters.

Dr. Amer Ghalib

Dr. Amer Ghalib, a Hamtramck-based Physician was shown to be the fresh face of the race, having never been a major part of Hamtramck’s local politics before this race.

His stated first priority is “to put an end to the division that’s happening in the city.”

“I think now, more than ever, the city is divided,” Dr. Ghalib said. “People vs. Police, Council vs. Community, Religion vs. Politics. I believe what is needed more than ever is an open dialogue at this time.”

Throughout the MotivateMe313 Forum, Dr. Ghalib expressed a deep focus on working through the city’s budget challenges, providing open communication between the city and its government, and other transparent means. For the rest of the campaign, Dr. Ghalib will need to leverage the community trust he’s built through his medical profession.

“As a healthcare professional, I was trained to be an advocate to the people, and to always respect their choices and to put their interests first,” Dr. Ghalib said. “I have that natural feeling to serve the people and I believe that I am ready to serve the people in a different way by being mayor.”

Councilman Saad Almasmari

Councilman Saad Almasmari is trying to work his way up from Hamtramck’s City Council. With a number of campaigns within his experience, with some being highly successful, while others being not-so-successful, Almasmari is hoping to win his biggest seat yet.

Almasmari has been at the center of some controversial issues. Having voted against the millage proposal that would raise taxes by up to 10 mils, he’s aligned himself against increasing taxes in any form for Hamtramck residents.

“First of all, I believe that City of Hamtramck residents, they are overloaded,” Almasmari said. “They have too many issues and too many bills to pay. We have a high water bill, and we have high property taxes. We are also not getting the services we need in Hamtramck.”

Hamtramck as a diverse community is most clearly represented in Almasmari’s candidacy. With the city’s notoriety of being a predominately Bangladeshi and Yemeni enclave, Saad’s history as an émigré from Yemen will strike well with many voters.

This is something that Almasmari is leveraging in his campaign, saying that the city’s diversity is important to people like him.

“Let’s not forget that Hamtramck is a diverse town and we have too many different cultures, too many different religions, too many different backgrounds, too many different ways of thinking,” Almasmari said. “That is a positive, we can’t look at it as a negative. That is a positive.”

Asm Kamal Rahman

Asm Rahman is quite possibly the most experienced outsider candidate. Although this isn’t his first campaign running for Mayor of Hamtramck, he’s one of the two candidates who has never held public office in Hamtramck.

What Rahman is hoping will be a counterpoint to his lack of political experience in City Council or City Administration is a long history of political activism in Hamtramck and Detroit.

“The problems that I see, like us all talking about the budget – who has experience with budgets?” Rahman said. “That’s what we need to look at. Safety, crime and the speed issue, lower taxes, water, flooding – you name it, Hamtramck has been making the top of the list.”

As a finance professional in City of Detroit administration, Kamal’s campaign material highlights “25 years of experience in finance, administration and leadership in city government.” This may offer voters who are serious about the details of Hamtramck’s budget challenge a little reassurance in his candidacy.

But as a continued outsider of Hamtramck’s political establishment, there may still be some trust that needs to be built for Rahman’s candidacy to take off.

“This is a very critical election for Hamtramck,” Rahman said. “Hamtramck needs a fresh face. It needs new ideas. That hasn’t worked yet. I think we need to look for ways to improve things in a way that has worked.”

Current Mayor Karen Majewski

Current Mayor Karen Majewski is running her fifth campaign that leverages 16 years of previous work. If re-elected, Majewski would be in a position to become the longest-serving mayor of Hamtramck.

Majewski is running on those 16 years of experience, telling voters at the MotivateMe313 forum, “In short, I know this job, and you know me.”

Drawing from her years of experience, her work as mayor has been successful, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her weekly updates of the pandemic, and various aid opportunities kept the city grounded. All of this previous work may have been an extension of the weight she felt to serve the city.

“I remember the very first time I was elected to city council in 2003, and I was making my first trip to city hall in this official capacity,” said Mayor Majewski. “And coming out of city hall, there was an older couple walking up the steps and coming into the building. It hit me at that moment so heavily that I’m responsible for making sure that they have a good life here.”