OLYMPIA, Wash. – In the decades since the Iranian Revolution, immigrants from there have made it to the corner offices of corporate America, academia and Hollywood. But they’re largely absent from the political scene.
In the U.S., the highest ranking Iranian-American elected official is a freshman state representative from suburban Seattle. But his heritage is not the only thing worth noticing about Representative Cyrus Habib.
History was in the making last summer and fall in the suburbs east of Seattle. But voters didn’t know that when a vaguely Middle Eastern looking man came knocking. The first thing they probably noticed was that he is blind.
“I wear sunglasses as do many people who are blind and I use a cane,” explains Habib.
He says he door-belled 7,000 homes in his campaign for an open seat in the Washington legislature.
“It happened not infrequently that people seeing me walk up the front steps would assume that I was with community services for the blind. They’d be surprised when they answered the door and I’d say, ‘No, I’m running for office.’ Then they became much more guarded.”
Undaunted, Habib raised more money — $338,500 — to win election than any other Washington House candidate in state history. The first-time candidate appealed to Iranian-American donors far beyond Seattle, dozens of whom gave the maximum allowed.
“It was gratifying,” Habib says. “You know, I think we are at a critical moment as a community of Iranian-Americans, or Middle Eastern-Americans.”