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It's campaign season--and the candidates are trolling: Amir Omar seeks votes deep in the heart of Texas.

A business manager and community activist of Iranian and Palestinian descent has declared his candidacy for a City Council seat in Richardson, Texas, in the May 9 non-partisan election.

Richardson is a suburb of Dallas with a population of 100,000.

Amir Omar, 37, is seeking one of seven seats on the city council. There are currently 16 candidates running for council, with Omar challenging incumbent Dennis Stewart for Place 7. Omar grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, majored in industrial distribution at Texas A&M University and later joined the Corps of Cadets. As a son of immigrants, Omar describes himself as "living poof that the American dream is alive and well."

He is currently a Major Accounts Manager for Verizon Communications. He has worked in the communications field in sales and management for more than nine years.

Omar's campaign for City Council is his second bid for public office. In 2006, Omar sought to become the first American of Iranian descent to serve in the U.S. Congress, but his bid fell short in the Republican primary run-off.

Omar, whose mother is Iranian and father is Palestinian, told the Iran Times that although the Iranian-American population in Richardson is small, the community can still help get him elected.

Iranian-Americans "make up less than one tenth of one percent--maybe 10 to 20 out of 100,000 people. In order to win, I will need to have attracted mainstream voters. Iranian-Americans can support through financial contributions. In politics you can support a candidate in three major ways: Vote, Volunteer, and Financial Contributions," Omar said.

In an interview with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) and the Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC), Omar explained why he decided to run for political office again.

"Starting hours after the [2006] election results came in, I began getting calls from inside and out of the Persian community encouraging me to run again. Between the widely distributed Dallas Morning News endorsement and the above-the-fray campaign, many thought the effort was positive and meaningful. I sat down two to three days later and did a full post mortem in order to capture both hits and misses in the last campaign so that I would be more prepared in the future," Omar said.

But Omar explained that he learned several important lessons during his campaign for the Republican congressional nomination that he will incorporate in his current campaign.

"The biggest lesson I learned was that walking [door-to-door] was key. I also learned that getting the mail out in time is important. Areas I walked heavily last time, I won 2:1. But the areas where I did not, I lost 4:1. When your name sounds funny, people will not vote for you if all else is the same [in that they know neither candidate]. I also found that I was considerably more effective in areas where my mail got to them on time. The mail timing is a byproduct of the desire to raise the needed funds fast."


In February, Omar told PAAIA and IAPAC, "I have already knocked on 1,000 doors and will knock on 3,000 more. There are 13 neighborhood forums during the campaign, and I hope to supplement those forums with neighborhood specific mailers," Omar said, adding that he hopes to raise $30,000 to cover the costs of his campaign.

In laying out his platform, Omar explained that he believed the most important issues that needed to be addressed were taxes, city spending, property values and retail development.

"We need to freeze senior property tax permanently and cap spending in our city until the country begins to recover from the economic downturn. Although Richardson has weathered the storm nicely, nobody can predict if that will hold up. It is far better to be proactive in this regard than reactive.

"Run-down apartments are an issue as they lower property values and increase the crime rate. We need to get tough with landlords that allow their property to be in this condition and expedite the efforts to condemn the buildings when they repeatedly don't pass inspection.

"Retail development has also been lacking, considering our size. I plan to have a directed marketing campaign to particular segments in retail that will involve direct councilman efforts with the leaders of those companies.

It is time that our councilmen sell our city directly to the decision makers," Omar said.

Omar's campaign website is: http://www.omarforrichard
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Title Annotation:Diaspora: Around the globe
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:May 8, 2009
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