New group in Maryland is recruiting Muslim candidates to run for office

A newly formed political action committee based in Potomac says it will train 30 Muslim Americans to run for state and local offices in Maryland in 2018 and also will recruit hundreds of other candidates across the country.

“If we are not at the table of democracy, we may end up on the menu of authoritarianism,” said Hamza Khan, a longtime Democratic activist in Montgomery County who is executive director of the Pluralism Project. “By training Muslim candidates in the skills they need to run for and win political office, we intend to empower Muslims to take back control of their narrative in the American experience.”

Khan announced the recruitment of the 30 Maryland candidates on Monday but would not identify them or say which offices they will seek.

Just over half the candidates are women; their average age is about 39 years old, and 95 percent were born in the United States, Khan said. Half of the candidate pool is from Montgomery County, which is believed to have the state’s largest Muslim population.

Few Muslims have run for elected office in Maryland before, and most who have are men, Khan said, which is why the Pluralism Project particularly encouraged Muslim women to run.

“They are a marginalized community within a marginalized community,” he said.

The Pluralism Project is a hybrid PAC, which means it is a blend of a traditional political action committee and a super PAC. Hybrid PACs can raise unlimited amounts of cash to support candidates through advertisements and limited amounts of money to donate directly to candidates.

Khan said his group plans to focus its attention on training, not fundraising, for specific races. Candidates will be given tips on giving stump speeches, raising money and developing a “field plan.”

Khan said the committee spread the word about its efforts by connecting with local mosque boards, youth groups, labor unions and progressive groups. All have seen a surge of interest and activism, he said, since the 2016 campaign and election of President Trump, a Republican.

Democrats in Maryland are trying to harness that energy to defeat popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has said he will seek a second term in 2018.

“We hope to keep Maryland blue and to deliver the governor’s house,” Khan said.