Nadeem Mazen, 34, was set to declare his run as a Democrat for a district northwest of Boston, a seat that comes open next year as 71-year-old Representative Niki Tsongas opts not to seek a sixth term in office.
The state’s best-known Muslim elected official, Mazen plans to focus his campaign on economic issues. His attempt to jump from a municipal office to Congress is in keeping with the spirit of Jetpac, the activist group he launched in February aimed at encouraging more Muslims to seek elected office.
He is also prepared to face questions about his faith, as polls show many Americans take a dim view of Muslims, their memories colored by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
“People don’t understand what it means to me to have a Muslim faith and to believe that faith compels me to serve every American and to serve the Constitution,” Mazen said in an interview, Reuters reported.
If successful, he could join US Representatives Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana as the third Muslim in Congress.
Mazen’s faith is unlikely to be held against him in a liberal-leaning region, said Jeffrey Berry, professor of political science at Tufts University.
“This is a liberal electorate, particularly in the primary … I don’t believe they’re going to regard Mazen’s religion as a problem,” Berry said. “But it’s not enough of a pull for this district to get them to vote for him as opposed to the others.”
Other possible Democratic candidates include state Senator Barbara L‘Italien; 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor Steve Kerrigan; Daniel Koh, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and hotelier Abhijit Das.