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28-year-old South Asian American Raaheela Ahmed Announces Run for Maryland State Senate From District 23

28-year-old South Asian American Raaheela Ahmed Announces Run for Maryland State Senate From District 23

  • The daughter of an Indian father and a Pakistani mother has served for five years as a member of Prince George’s County Board of Education.

Former Prince George’s County school board member Raaheela Ahmed, a Democrat, is running for the Maryland Senate seat from District 23, currently held by incumbent Ron Watson who was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan in August.

Ahmed announced her resignation from the school board and her intent to run for the state Senate on Feb. 9. In a post on her social media handles, the 28-year-old said she’s not resigning from the Board of Education “because of apathy or defeat due to this flawed system; to the contrary, I’m resigning out of a sense of strong responsibility to our students and our community, to attempt to restore our democracy and our voice, and to focus on representing us all in the Maryland State Senate, District 23.” She continued: “Rest assured, my fire and passion to fight for us runs strong. It has been my greatest pleasure and honor to serve you in this role. My service to and for us is far from over. I look forward to our future together.” 

She told WTOP that she’s running because “someone needs to step up and make bold decisions to save our democracy when it comes to the governance of our school system.”

The daughter of an Indian father and a Pakistani mother, Ahmed first ran for the Board of Education position in 2012 as a young 18-year-old and nearly won. She then ran again in 2016 and won her seat by 57 percent of the vote from a whopping 32,000 supporters. Again on Nov. 3, 2020, Ahmed won her re-election bid to the BoE. 

District 23 covers parts of most of Bowie and portions of Laurel and Upper Marlboro in Prince George’s County, where Ahmed was born and raised. “I’m really excited about doing advocacy on the state level [and] to serve my community in a new way,” she told the Washington Informer.

Apart from Ahmed and incumbent Watson, the other candidate running for the seat in the June 28 Democratic primary is Sylvia Johnson, who serves on the county’s Human Relations Commission.

During her five years on the BoE, Ahmed has at times challenged and voted against her school board colleagues. She was the only board member in October 2020 to vote against the multibillion-dollar public-private partnership (P3) project to build at least six new schools. Several reasons for her vote stemmed from ongoing contract negotiations in terms of funding, conditions for when students returned to school and other specific project details amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation she sponsored or helped get approved included financial literacy as a graduation requirement, additional resources for students and staff in the LGBTQ community and established Prince George’s as the first school system in the state to adopt an excused absence policy strictly for civic engagement activities.

Faith is very personal for Ahmed and she wears a hijab. “For me it was not running for office that led me to wear a hijab,” she told American Kahani in an earlier interview. “It was a personal decision that I made very early on. It is a way for me to develop a stronger relationship with my higher power. By wearing a hijab, I am able to check myself and am reminded of the values I carry. Hijab is a symbol of empowerment and I like standing in my own power.”

She is currently the deputy director of Campus Vote Project, a nonprofit where she manages the national team of state organizers that focus on institutionalizing voting on college campuses and helping students vote. She is also a trainer with the Progressive Governance Academy, where she trains elected leaders across the country on community leadership, good governance and legislative action.

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Before these roles, Ahmed served as the manager of Leadership Programs for NewAmericanLeaders, where she created and maintained a 400+ national network of elected officials of immigrant background that are committed to an inclusive democracy. Through her work, she programmed national conferences and policy-minded excursions and spoke at numerous national conferences about the importance of representative government, immigration reform, and service-based leadership.

She was also an Advisory Associate with the Global Public Sector at Grant Thornton LLP. She provided financial management services to federal clients; the largest being the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service, which works with a $2 billion+ national budget. From that role, she has developed proficiency in obligation management, purchase card management, audit services and automation transformation.

In the 2013 legislative session, Ahmed interned for a Maryland State Senator in Annapolis. There, she researched proposed bills and created drafts for constituents’ concerns on such legislation, met with legislators to gauge support for certain pieces of legislation and learned about policy-making through conversations with the Senator, committee meetings, lobbyists’ online literature, and floor proceedings.

She was the 2014-2015 Student Regent on the Board of Regents for the entire University System of Maryland (USM), where she was the student voice for over 120,000 college students on this policy-making, budget analyzing Board.

Ahmed graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park as an honors student with a B.S. in Finance and a B.A. in Economics. As a student, Raaheela has worked several campus jobs, including being a Fellows Ambassador for the business school, and a teaching assistant for an online engineering/entrepreneurship class.

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