Get to Know a Legislator: Rep. Abdullah Hammoud

Posted by on May 31, 2018 at 1:00 PM

By Jeremy Garson, Bridge Alliance. Reposted from MillennialAction.org

In this month’s Legislator of the Month feature, MAP sits down with Michigan Future Caucus Co-Chair Representative Abdullah Hammoud (D-District 15). Rep. Hammoud shares what motivated him to run for office, the power of bridge building, and why he decided to join the State Future Caucus Network.

Rep. Hammoud was motivated to run for office after his brother Ali passed away. “Ali was the type of individual that made you feel as if the stars were within arm’s reach, all you had to do was be bold enough to grab them. He was an individual that believed in pursuing your passions, staying true to your identity, and, above all, treating everyone as if they were family.”

Rep. Hammoud embraced Ali’s legacy and, at just 26, he became the first ever Arab American Muslim elected to represent his district — an identity that he embraces.

I asked him how his faith has impacted his experience in the legislature and he noted that several of his colleagues had never met a Muslim before and that “there has been a hesitancy to engage with me because of my faith and ethnicity.” Rep. Hammoud has worked to transform this unfamiliarity into an opportunity.

Last year, he invited almost 40 fellow representatives to his district, which has the highest concentration of Arab American people in the United States, outside of the Middle East. According to Rep. Hammoud, “This experience opened the doors for relationship building and communication, which has led to fruitful partnerships in unlikely places.”

Trying to build unlikely bridges has been a consistent theme during Rep. Hammoud’s time in office. As he puts it, “In an era with polarizing partisan politics, it is essential to have conversations with people who have different viewpoints. One of the most dangerous things that we can do is isolate ourselves within our echo chambers and dehumanize people with different opinions.”

That mindset led Rep. Hammoud to join the Millennial Action Project’s Future Caucus, which strives to bring policymakers together and set party labels aside to build consensus and problem solve. That mentality also motivates Rep. Hammoud to do his job better.

He stated that the most difficult part of his job is finding compromises that work for everybody, but that “compromise often is reached by leveraging the relationships that you have built.” Rep. Hammoud understands that he is in office to better the lives of his constituents, and that he cannot allow pride or animosity get in the way of positive change.

One of the ways he is trying to improve his constituents’ lives is by increasing access to and improving the quality of healthcare for everyone in Michigan.

Rep. Hammoud noted that he recently “introduced a bill that would limit insurance companies to charging a maximum of $5 for primary care co-pays.” According to Rep. Hammoud, “High deductibles and co-pays keep far too many people away from visiting primary care physicians, prolonging essential care and leading to additional health problems and higher costs down the road. This policy is a small step towards a more efficient health care system, but we still have a lot more work to do before our health care needs are met.” Rep. Hammoud then added, “It is my hope that over the next two terms, I can work with others to push our state’s health care system in the direction of a single payer model.”

Finally, Rep. Hammoud lamented that he only had two more terms left in office due to Michigan’s term limits.

Asked what he’d known about elected office before being elected, Rep. Hammoud stated, “I wish I knew the full impact term limits would have on this office.” Rep. Hammoud acknowledged that the law was intended to limit corruption and career politicians in office. However, he argues that “the terms are too short for officials to effectively learn how to do their job. These limits ultimately place the power in the hands of lobbyists and other unelected officials who have inadvertently become the institutional knowledge around Lansing.”

Nevertheless, Rep. Hammoud knows he only has so long to make an impact, and he is ready to do everything he can to improve the 15th District — and the lives of young people — during his time in office.