By DAVID SHARP
Thursday November 7, 2019
Safiya Khalid speaks at a candidates forum at Geiger Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine.
PORTLAND, Maine — The second-largest city in Maine, home to thousands of African newcomers, has elected a Somali American to its city council following a campaign that was marred by racist attacks and threats fueled by social media.
Safiya Khalid, 23, soundly defeated a fellow Democrat on Tuesday for a seat on the Lewiston City Council.
Shrugging off attacks on her skin color and faith, Khalid declared that "community organizers beat internet trolls."
The attacks didn't seem to faze voters. Khalid won with nearly 70% of the vote to make history in the former mill city.
"I worked really hard. I knocked on thousands of doors. That's what paid off," Khalid told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday.
Maine is the nation's whitest state, but it is home to a growing population of Africans who have fled their homeland.
First- and second-generation candidates from four African countries — Somalia, Congo, Ghana and Nigeria — won seats on city councils and school committees across the state, continuing an established trend, said Mufalo Chitam, executive director of the Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition.