Nida Allam

The first Muslim American woman to be elected to office in North Carolina, Nida Allam was one of five women to win North Carolina Democratic Primary for the Durham County Board of Commissioners’ five seats.  

Prior to her run for local office, Allam worked as a political director for Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016 and was elected as third vice chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, becoming the first Muslim American to serve on the party’s executive council. She also served as chair of Durham Mayor’s Council for Women, serving as liaison between women and the city government officials in an effort to improve the quality of life of women in Durham.  

Allam was driven to politics in 2015 after three of her best friends who were all Muslim American students— Deah Barakat, Razan Abu-Salha, and Yusur— were shot and killed by their neighbor in Chapel Hill. Allam explains that the lack of outrage over the incident minimized the pain she and Muslims all over the world felt after this tragedy and served as a harsh reminder for the ways in which trauma experienced by Muslims is overlooked or disregarded. A fierce advocate for justice, Nida says, “I’m fighting for a better Durham so that others don’t have to suffer the pain my community did.”  

Interview Questions and Responses:  

Why did you choose to run for Durham County Commissioners?  

Focus is always played on federal offices that get a lot of media attention, however, local offices have a direct impact on people's lives and many times in a more immediate time frame. County Commissioners play a vital role in funding our schools as well as building a relationship with the school board to continually improve on the lives of kids across Durham, that was one of the most appealing aspects of being a county commissioner for me. To not just manage the budget but the accountability piece of following through and making sure we are focusing on our kids every step of the way. 

Was this your first time running for office? If yes, what helped you run a successful campaign and what resources did you find were available to you, especially as a woman running for local office. If this was not your first time, could you answer the previous question and also talk about what made this campaign different than your first race? 

Yes, having organized for 5 years now the relationships I built with people along the way have been the most valuable. Friends and colleagues who offered their support and expertise to me during the campaign were invaluable. My family support system was absolutely vital to maintain sanity through the highs and lows of running for office. I saw a lot of doors open up for me as I was running for office, I also the opportunity for me to garner relationships that I will continue to cherish and nurture even as an elected official such as with grassroots community organizers because these are the boots on the ground that know where the needs are on a day to day basis. 

You are the first Muslim woman to win public office in NC, which is so wild! How do you feel and what does this mean for your state? 

I feel very humbled by this, running for office is one step but now serving and continuing to work to represent a community well is a responsibility I take seriously. I also hope to continue working with organizations that seek to uplift minority women in the political and nonprofit sphere because though I am the first, I surely don't plan on being the last. I hope this race inspires younger generations to see that there is space for them to be politically involved, run for office, manage campaigns, volunteer on campaigns. The opportunities are endless.