Elections

Meet the Hudson Valley’s Anti-AOC

Is Washington, D.C. ready for a Christian Arab, pro-life—and pro-Israel!—glamorous, conservative, Second Amendment stalwart, fashion model cancer-survivor as a member of Congress?

Ola Hawatmeh is a name to learn and remember. This dynamic conservative Republican woman appears poised to win the GOP nomination to oppose a left-wing, first-term Democratic incumbent in a mostly rural and small-town, conservative district covering the Catskills and the Hudson Valley running south from the suburbs of Albany to Poughkeepsie.

Hawatmeh (pronounced ha-WAHT-meh) was born in New York state and grew up in the district. She’s a native speaker of Arabic as well as English.  She is the devout daughter of Eastern-Rite Christian parents who settled in the Hudson Valley after leaving their native homes in Jordan and Lebanon.

Ever since her surprise victory in New York’s 14th district primary and easy ride to the general election in 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has captured much of the nation’s attention as a young, energetic, female federal legislator with a passionate oratorical style and glamorous looks.

Ocasio-Cortez is appealing on her side of the ideological divide because she dramatically symbolizes the possibility that an outsider can beat a well-funded pillar of the old-boy network. She offers an attractive face for the anti-establishment, left-wing of the Democratic party. She is an uncompromising socialist in an environment where that stance wins votes and accumulates power.

New York’s 19th district now is about to launch the political career of the Anti-AOC. If elected in November, Hawatmeh will become La Pasionaria of conservative politics.

A graduate of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, Hawatmeh is an entrepreneur and advocate of women’s advancement and rights. No, she is not a left-wing feminist. She is deeply conservative.

She is pro-life, pro-family, and committed to the traditional status of marriage. She is a proud and nurturing mother of three sons who is now single because she went through a very unhappy divorce. Like so many women and men who have been divorced in our society, she believes in the sanctity of marriage at least as much—and probably more so—than many people whose marriages have survived human failing and the tendencies of contemporary culture.

Hawatmeh’s name may be hard to pronounce and remember, but her image is hard to forget. She is in the business of glamor. She is a fashion designer and a model who has built a good business all on her own. She’s also a cancer survivor.

She is the antithesis of a political insider. She is a classic outsider whose passion for politics was kindled by Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Like so many others from immigrant families, she considers it a great privilege to be welcomed into the United States, and she looks dimly upon illegal immigration.

Is Washington, D.C. ready for a Christian Arab, pro-life—and pro-Israel!—glamorous, conservative, Second Amendment stalwart, fashion model cancer-survivor as a member of Congress?  I am.

My wife and I are friends of Ola’s. She has been to our home for dinner. We have attended Mass with her at the Maronite Catholic church. She is a woman with a great heart, a woman of decency, a woman of depth. It’s true that all that glitters is not gold. In Ola Hawatmeh’s case, however, the woman who glitters is genuine gold.

Can she be elected?

She appears to be on her way to winning the Republican nomination. She has one primary opponent, a young trial lawyer who raised about $14,000 in the first quarter of 2020. Hawatmeh has raised $266,000 during that period and spent only $11,000 of it.

Congressional primaries in her district are usually very low-turnout affairs. This year’s primary is scheduled for June 23, and it should be expected that turnout will be suppressed more than is normal because of COVID-19.

If Hawatmeh is the nominee for the November election, she will face Democrat Antonio Delgado. Delgado is a native of the district, but his career path and his ideology are out of step with its conservative constituency.

Before his election in 2018, Delgado was a trial lawyer in the Manhattan office of the huge international law firm Akin Gump. Delgado defeated one-term conservative Republican Rep. John Faso during an election with an extraordinarily high turnout for a midterm. Delgado’s margin was not large, and it could be said he won on the coattails of a massive national campaign by the Democrats.

Delgado has a large campaign war chest for 2020, mostly accumulated through contributions from Akin Gump partners, other trial lawyers, and the “lobbying community.”

This year’s federal elections will take place under unprecedented circumstances. Anything could happen.

How conservative is New York’s 19th district? Donald Trump won it by a solid margin—6.8 percent—in 2016, even though his campaign, doomed to lose the Empire State in a blowout, put no resources into winning votes there. Hillary Clinton’s statewide victory margin was 22.5 percent.

If Trump wins re-election, it is likely he will have coattails to carry Hawatmeh into Congress.

The D.C. Republican establishment has yet to take the outsider Hawatmeh seriously. She certainly does not fit their stereotype. Party leaders and major donors should be giving her more support now. Her overwhelming performance in first-quarter fundraising should awaken them to the fact that this outsider is a budding star, whose conservative social and political convictions are rock-solid.