Democrat jumps into 7th District race with ‘Medicare for all’ pledge

Seventh District congressional candidate Nabilah Islam.

Seventh District congressional candidate Nabilah Islam.

A Lawrenceville native inspired by the diverse freshman class that stormed Capitol Hill following last year’s midterms is stepping into Georgia’s wide-open 7th District congressional race with an unapologetically progressive platform.

Nabilah Islam, a Georgia State graduate and Democratic activist, will announce her candidacy Wednesday with pledges to back “Medicare for all” and a $15-an-hour minimum wage and reject corporate money.

The child of Bangladeshi immigrants who worked low-wage jobs to support the family - her father was an IRS file clerk and mother flipped burgers at a fast food restaurant - Islam said her background will resonate with people in the fast-changing district, which includes large swaths of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.

“I believe my story is the story of this district, and I’m running for Congress because for too long working people have been overlooked in favor of corporate special interests,” she said in an interview. “I’m running so that people like my parents, folks who live paycheck to paycheck, have the opportunity to get ahead.”

Islam is running for public office for the first time, but she’s worked in politics for years behind the scenes. She got her start on Andre Dickens’ campaign for Atlanta City Council and Jason Carter’s 2014 bid for governor. She raised cash for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, and went on to work for the Democratic National Committee.

Her embrace of single-payer health care is a novel one in Atlanta’s competitive northern suburbs, where Democrats steered clear last year. Republican political groups have pounced on Democrats for embracing similar proposals in other districts, and they’re sure to do so in the 7th should Islam’s candidacy gain traction.

Islam said she was inspired to run by the U.S. House’s new freshman class, which includes a number of young, progressive women such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

“We had the most diverse Congress ever get elected, and for me it was inspiring because it showed me that my identity wasn’t a handicap, that I should be empowered to run for office and reflect the folks in our community,” Islam said.

She is the third Democrat to jump into the 7th District race, which is expected to draw even an even bigger crowd in the months ahead.

GSU professor Carolyn Bourdeaux, who was narrowly defeated by incumbent Rob Woodall in November, announced her plans to run again shortly after the Lawrenceville Republican said he wouldn't seek another term. She's raised more than $250,000 since the election and secured the endorsements of several senior officials, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.

Snellville attorney Marqus Cole has declared his candidacy, and several rising Democratic stars in the Legislature are also eyeing the seat, which has been in GOP hands for 25 years.

More than a half-dozen Republicans are also mulling a run, including former state senator and lieutenant governor candidate David Shafer.

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