By John Rossomando, Newsmax | March 26, 2024

A Syrian-American physician aims to become the first Muslim Republican elected to Congress. Despite seemingly in an age of identity politics, it’s not one of Zuhdi Jasser’s selling points.

While Jasser has appeared on Newsmax TV and other news media platforms espousing liberal democratic values and against political Islamism for more than 20 years, he wants to be seen as something else.

A congressional candidate in the hunt for the GOP nomination in the July 30 primary in Arizona’s 4th Congressional District, his campaign focuses on border security and reducing the inflation that has hurt Americans due to rising costs of basic necessities like gasoline and groceries.

He touts his eight-point security plan to seal the U.S.-Mexican border; end the Biden administration’s ability to use interpretations of existing law to set illegal migrants free; intensify the vetting of asylum claims to ensure migrants lack extremist ties; require asylum claims to be made outside the U.S.; deport the millions of illegals who have entered since Joe Biden became president – increasing pressure on migrants to self-deport; abolish sanctuary cites; and support Donald Trump on immigration if he returns to the White House.

Jasser founded the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) in 2003 and served as vice chair on the U.S. Commission on International Freedom (USCIRF) during the Barack Obama years. He also was a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy.

He told Newsmax that he’s an activist at heart and would bring that same ethic to Washington.

“We should be marching at the border. When people go to Washington, they forget what it’s like to be an activist,” Jasser said. “Trump, one of the most effective things he did, was he articulated that you shouldn’t be coming here unless you believe in our county, unless you want to be an American. That’s underestimated, and I would be able to articulate it as the son of immigrants.”

He seeks to replace Rep. Greg Stanton, a Democrat and former mayor of Phoenix, in the city’s suburban district of Tempe, Chandler, and Mesa.

Stanton, now in his third term, has been a reliable supporter of President Joe Biden’s policies. He condemned the Republican effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas due to the secretary’s lax enforcement of border controls to keep the millions of illegal migrants from entering the country.

Stanton joined with other Democrats in February to claim that Republicans “chose chaos over order, partisan politics over bipartisan solutions” and blamed Republicans for the border flood because they would not pass Biden’s immigration bill – which called for more money to process illegal migrants, not prevent them from entering.

On abortion, Stanton has been a staunch supporter of permitting abortion. He has a 90% voting record from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and a 3% voting record from the American Conservative Union.

Arizona became a key battleground seat in 2020 and was one of the states narrowly lost by Trump, making it an important state for Trump in 2024 as he opposes Biden.

Prior to redistricting in 2022, Republican Paul Gosar represented the area. It was represented in the 1990s by former Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. John Shadegg, also both Republicans.

Jasser faces restaurant owner and Marine veteran Kelly Cooper in the July 30 primary. Cooper lost to Stanton in the 2022 midterm elections by 32,420 votes, 56%-44%. Jasser contends he is better to defeat Stanton because he has faced tough political fights in the past and has held his own.

“I have been a lifelong Republican conservative. He (Cooper) has been a registered Democrat and, even up until 2018, was pulling Green Party ballots to vote,” Jasser said. “So, he’s definitely not a reliable conservative. I’m definitely a first-time candidate and small business owner. He is too, but the bottom line is, I haven’t lost by 13 points in a split district.”

Jasser continued: “God bless him. He did three years as an enlisted in the Marines. … That’s cool. He’s a restaurant owner, but there are so many complex issues now. I think I’ve demonstrated that I’ve been battle vetted and tested as far as understanding issues from national security and taking on incoming from congressional hearings … was able to take that … on immediately and not wince when I was being grilled by the Democrats.”

The Arizona Republic reported in October 2022 that Cooper joined the GOP in 2021 and noted that he had affiliations with populist groups like Tea Party Express and Gun Owners of America.

Also seeking the Republican nomination are Dave Giles, a New York-born engineer and pilot with a bachelors and masters degrees in theology, and Jerone Davison, a retired CFL and NFL running back who finished fifth in the primary in 2022.

In Jasser’s view, America needs people who can stand the heat in Washington and who can come out on top.

“I still have support across the aisle and support from all sides,” Jasser said. “I mean … I’m one of the few candidates in this country who is endorsed by both Charlie Kirk and Sen. Kyl and John Shadegg. The historical leadership in this state and sort of by the MAGA community.”

Jasser thinks Cooper’s loss two years ago shows he cannot win a rematch with Stanton. He adds that Republicans have difficulty finding good candidates who can flip seats.

“It’s just a bad investment for the voters. It’s just a bad investment for donors, for contributors, for the community, and the country,” Jasser said of Cooper’s 2022 defeat.

Jasser believes his profile in an era of nationalized Congressional elections is to his benefit. By contrast, Cooper’s race focuses more on a local constituency.

“What is Zuhdi doing here running in my district,” Cooper said.

Cooper told Newsmax that he faced strong headwinds in 2022 as a Republican following the Dobbs decision on abortion. Republicans were not prepared to confront the youth vote that Democrats mobilized based on the abortion issue, Cooper said.

He noted that Trump endorsed him in 2022 and said he did not blame his endorsement of Kari Lake in the gubernatorial race for his loss. Cooper feels confident that 2024 will be different because he has spent time building relationships in the local community, ones he could not build last time because he upset the presumptive GOP nominee, Tanya Wheeless, in the primary.

He criticizes Jasser for running in the district because he lives in north Scottsdale, not in Tempe or Mesa where the district is located.

His 2022 primary opponents also raised the issue about Cooper voting for the Green Party; however, Cooper claimed he inadvertently had voted in a local race in Chandler, Ariz., on a Green ballot.

In contrast with Jasser’s characterization, Cooper told Newsmax he is a committed conservative who believes that Congress must focus on kitchen table issues like inflation and the cost of living that has skyrocketed since Biden came into office.

He touted his work ethic and how he worked himself up from being a restaurant worker to becoming a franchisee of the Melting Pot, a national restaurant chain. As a result of working in an inflation-sensitive industry he believes he understands what his potential constituents are facing.

Cooper, like Jasser, supports stronger border security measures so that people feel “safe” and noted that the border is a complex issue that it requires “law and order and enforcement.” The solution is simple, but Cooper argues that Democrats and Republicans do not speak the same language when it comes to the border.

“He has no articles or positions out there that have been vetted. He and the other candidates, though they run perennially, are an unknown entity other than running. His only answer why he can win in a district we should be one point in if we do not win like Gov. [Doug] Ducey did is that he ‘didn’t have enough money,’ and he underperformed Trump,” Jasser said.

John Rossomando ✉
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