Abdul-Samad likely to be Iowa's longest-serving Black legislator

State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad will seek a ninth term in the Iowa House, he announced on Facebook on December 19. He said he decided to run for re-election in House district 34 following “deep thought” and conversations with many constituents of all ages.

Abdul-Samad will be heavily favored in next year’s election. If he wins in 2022, he will become the longest-serving of the nineteen Black Iowans who have served in the state legislature since 1965. Former State Representative Helen Miller represented the Fort Dodge area for sixteen years before retiring in 2018.

Abdul-Samad was first elected in 2006 from a district covering part of the north side of Des Moines. The latest redistricting plan placed him in House district 34.

Fellow Iowa House Democrat Marti Anderson also lives in this district, but she had already announced plans to retire in 2022 before the map was approved.

The winner of the Democratic primary is certain to win the general election in House district 34. According to a map Josh Hughes created in Dave’s Redistricting App, voters living here favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 75.1 percent to 22.4 percent. Fred Hubbell received about 77 percent of the vote in the same precincts in the 2018 governor’s race.

I haven’t heard of any Democrats considering running against Abdul-Samad next year. He faced a well-funded primary challenger once; social conservatives recruited that candidate in 2010 to campaign against the incumbent on marriage equality. Abdul-Samad did not support a state constitutional amendment to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court’s historic Varnum decision.

Calvetta Williams filed to run against Abdul-Samad in the 2020 primary. She received about 19 percent of the vote after a low-budget campaign.

Abdul-Samad has rarely faced a Republican opponent, though Jack Whitver (now the Iowa Senate majority leader) ran against him in 2006.

One of six Black Iowans now serving in the state House, Abdul-Samad is the only Muslim in the legislature and to my knowledge is the only lawmaker in either chamber to practice a religion other than Christianity.

He serves on the Environmental Protection, Ethics, International Relations, Local Government, and Public Safety committees, and also on the Administration and Regulation Appropriations subcommittee.

Outside the statehouse, Abdul-Samad is best known as the CEO of the nonprofit organization Creative Visions Human Development Institute, which he founded in 1996. Before running for the legislature, he served a term on the Des Moines school board. He was previously vice president of the Islamic Center of Des Moines, a coordinator for the nonprofit Urban Dreams, and a counselor to some incarcerated Iowans. He is also a motivational speaker and author; his first book was a collection of poetry called A Deeper Truth: Revelations of the Soul.

December 19 Facebook post:

Top image of State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad first published on the Iowa House Democrats website.

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