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Concord makes history electing former refugee Wazir to N.H. State House

  • Safiya Wazir greets voters outside the Ward 8 polling place at the Bektash Shrine Center, 189 Pembroke Road in Concord, New Hampshire on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Safiya Wazir greets voters outside the Ward 8 polling place at the Bektash Shrine Center, 189 Pembroke Road in Concord, New Hampshire on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Dennis Soucy waves to voters outside the Ward 8 polling place at the Bektash Shrine Center, 189 Pembroke Road in Concord, New Hampshire on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Safiya Wazir, a 27-year-old mother of two whose family fled persecution from the Taliban in Afghanistan, beat out Republican Dennis Soucy to earn a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.

Wazir is believed to be the first former refugee to serve in the State House.

“She’s one of the reasons I registered,” said Gopal Timsina, who voted for the first time Tuesday after he turned 18 in July. Timsina’s family came to Concord in 2008 from Nepal.

“It’s great to see minorities stepping up,” he said. “And it’s good to see (refugees), because they’ve been through a lot and some tough times, but now they can be whatever they want.”

Wazir beat Soucy 907 votes to 718, according to unofficial election results. 

The race generated national attention after Wazir defeated incumbent Dick Patten 329 to 143 in the September primary. Patten, who held four terms as a state rep and is a life-long Concord resident, was critical of Wazir and the refugee and immigrant population in the Heights, saying, “A lot has been promised to minorities,” and that those communities have been taking all the affordable housing from senior citizens.

Later, Patten said he would support Soucy because he was also a long-time resident of the Heights.

But Wazir, a Concord High School graduate who is expecting her third child, has built a community service profile while living in the Heights for the past 11 years, serving as the board of directors for the Community Action Program and vice-chairwoman of the Head Start Policy Council. 

Wazir’s family fled the Taliban when she was young, and she spent several years in a refugee camp in Uzbekistan before coming to Concord, where she learned English and worked at Walmart and Goodwill, worked on the high school yearbook committee, ran track, and helped support her family after her parents became ill and could no longer work.

That story resonated with voters.

Helen Ford said she used to be a Republican, but switched over “some time ago.” She was particularly concerned with President Donald Trump’s family separation policy, calling it “terrible,” and praised Wazir for her community involvement. 

“She’s very nice, very put together,” Ford said. “I think it’s excellent someone from outside the country can come to this community and establish themselves.”
(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at ActualCAndrews.)