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Sudanese-American Mazahir Salih, wins Iowa City Council race - City's newest councilwoman, makes history

Mazahir Salih said she almost couldn't believe the Election Day results Tuesday — that she'd won a seat as an at-large member of the Iowa City Council.

Salih, a founding member of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa and a local activist, was elected Tuesday to an at-large seat on the Iowa City Council after she earned 5,573 votes, or 77 percent.

Salih is Iowa City's first Sudanese-American council member, but also likely is the first Sudanese-American person elected to governmental office in the United States, according to Majed Khalifa, a board member of the Sudanese American Public Affairs Association. 

"As far as we know, she is the first, hence our excitement," Khalifa said Wednesday, adding that the organization had received numerous calls and messages from people supporting Salih. "We've been watching her campaign very closely, and we're happy that she made it to this position. I think others will be looking up to her and hopefully follow in her footsteps."

The association was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Virginia. It provides non-political and non-religious education on running for governmental office, Khalifa said.

He said, though, that the association does not have a database of Sudanese-American candidates or elected officials. Several people took to social media on Tuesday night and Wednesday, asking if Salih was the first.

Salih has said throughout her campaign that she plans to bring underrepresented voices to discussions held at City Hall. She has helped establish Johnson County's community ID program and, most recently, worked to commit 150 Iowa City businesses to continue paying a $10.10 minimum wage.

Salih on Tuesday said her focus, as she steps into her new role, will be to continue to work on affordable housing initiatives and fighting for "a fair, livable wage."

"I can't believe it. I have been nervous all day, and it's been a lot of hard work," she said while she was celebrating at The Mill in downtown Iowa City. 

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