What’s next for Abdullah Hammoud’s seat in the Michigan House of Representatives?


By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News

Dearborn Heights, Mich. – Until last Wednesday, the Michigan House of Representatives’ 15th District was left unrepresented in Lansing. Because of now-Mayor Abdullah Hammoud’s departure to pursue a campaign to lead Dearborn, the seat was empty for months. Although the 15th District seat will be filled soon, the race for who takes Hammoud’s place is only just beginning.

The 15th District has even changed since Abdullah Hammoud represented it in Michigan’s Legislature. Back in the 2018 General Election, the State of Michigan voted in favor of an independent redistricting process that would change the boundaries congressional seats and legislative seats at the state level.

Late last year, the final maps were adopted by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The State Legislative map, known as the Hickory Map, cut off a large bulk of East Dearborn from District 15, consolidating the vote into parts of West Dearborn and a larger portion of Dearborn Heights.

When the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission asked regular folks to submit their comments for the partition of each district, the commission asked for an understanding of communities of interest. Essentially, the goal was to keep communities together in political processes.


The Race for Leading District 15

In just a few weeks, the seat will be temporarily filled in a partial term that ends at the start of 2023. In the Mar. 1 Special Primary, the two candidates to campaign their way to the general election were Jeffrey D. Pepper for the Democratic Ticket and Ginger L. Shearer of the Republican Party. Alabas Farhat was knocked out of the democratic primary by less than 1,000 votes.

Pepper is an attorney and mediator working in Dearborn. His campaign website says he’s worked as an attorney for over 40 years. After winning the Democratic Primary against Farhat, he released a statement thanking the district and others for the primary win.

“The 15th District has spoken! Thank you to all who supported our campaign and thank you to all the election workers who helped make democracy work today,” Pepper said. “Thanks also to my opponent, Mr. Farhat, who ran a great campaign and has bright things ahead of him. I’m fired up and ready for the general!”

15th District Voters will be deciding on their representative for this year on Tuesday May 3 at the Consolidated Election. Although anything can happen, the 15th District has only been represented by a Republican Representative for 5 years out of the past 50 years.

Voters won’t be enjoying a break from campaigns for long. In August, the primary will ask voters to consider who fills the seat for the next full term. So far, Erin Byrnes, Jeffrey D. Pepper and Bilal Hammoud have filed for the Democratic Primary. No Republican Candidates have filed yet.


A Competitive Democratic Primary

With four high-quality candidates already announcing their campaigns, the primary season for the next representative will be crowded and competitive. Politicians who’ve won the seat have often gone on to other elite political positions, as proven by two former District 15 state representatives facing off for Dearborn mayor. With all that being said, all four candidates seem to have a credible claim to Dearborn voters’ confidence.

Erin Byrnes is the City Council President Pro-Tempore for Dearborn. Trained as an Educator at both University of Michigan Ann Arbor and CUNY Brooklyn, the second-term City Councilmember is now looking to represent Michigan’s 15th District.

“I am excited to apply all that I’ve learned on the local level to advocating for our communities in Lansing,” Byrnes wrote in a Feb. 1 Facebook post. “As always you will be my top priority… I will work hard to earn every vote and will continue to be a neighbor you can trust, a leader you can count on.”

Jeffrey D. Pepper, as discussed earlier in the article, is running for both the partial term and the next full term.

Bilal Hammoud is a former government worker who’s worked on policy reform, public education and ID and election resource creation for marginalized communities. He also chaired the Secretary of State’s Language Access Task Force, spearheading accessibility initiatives for non-English speaking communities.

“I’ve spent my life as an advocate for people, and my career has centered in intensive grassroots activism, municipal management, and state government,” Hammoud wrote on his campaign’s website. “I am excited to take on the challenge in Lansing for our amazing towns. If you share that same excitement, I would appreciate your support!”

Although Amer Zahr has not made a formal announcement to run for District 15, state records show that the Palestinian American Comedian may also be thinking of a possible run for Abdullah Hammoud’s old seat.

We won’t have a sure sense of the future until November. But the one thing that is for sure is the district isn’t the same as what it used to be.