27-year-old former refugee defeats life-long Concord resident in Democratic primary for state rep 

  • Safiya Wazir and her daughters Aaliyah, 2, and Mahwash outside their home on Friday, August 31, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Safiya Wazir, a 27-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, finds out she won the Democratic Primary in Concord's Ward 8. Caitlin Andrews—

Monitor staff
Published: 9/11/2018 9:15:29 PM

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been modified to clarify that Safiya Wazir is a former refugee from Afghanistan. She is an American citizen.)

At first, Safiya Wazir couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

A second later, it sunk in – after a long day on her feet, Wazir, a pregnant 27-year-old who arrived from Afghanistan as a refugee, defeated lifelong Heights resident and four-term District 17 state incumbent Rep. Dick Patten, overcoming an opponent who said her lack of experience and status as a refugee would hurt her campaign.

Instead, Wazir said those very things – as well as her drive to connect with voters through doorknocking, thank-you notes and election reminders – buoyed her campaign.

“They were very excited there was someone new running for the State House,” she said of her supporters. “It gives me so much energy to be backed from the people themselves. It’s driven me to be positive.”

Wazir will face off against Republican Dennis Soucy, who’s lived in Concord longer than Wazir has been alive.

If she wins in November, Wazir stands to make New Hampshire history as the first refugee to ever serve public office in the state, according to Secretary of State Bill Gardner. Wazir’s family left Afghanistan as the Taliban continued to gain power and landed in Concord in 2007.

Earlier in the day at the Ward 8 polling place, Patten said the Heights had changed a lot in recent years, and he and some constituents weren’t particularly happy about it. He said residents have told him they were frustrated with people who “have just moved into the city” getting the first crack at public housing, while others languish for years on the Section 8 waiting list. He said residents are concerned that older people will be pushed out.

“A lot has been promised to minorities,” he said. “A lot of out-of-Concord people are getting everything.”

Patten doubted Wazir’s campaign, saying she didn’t know the Heights neighborhood like he did.

“She’s promised everything,” he said. “I’ve been here for 66 years and never left. That counts for something.”

Patten pointed to his own community involvement in the Heights, including running the annual Christmas parade. He could not be reached after the polls closed and Wazir was declared the winner by more than a two to one margin, 329 to 143.

Wazir chose not to respond to Patten’s comments at the polls, except to say the Heights – an area mostly covered by Ward 8 in Concord that runs along one side of Loudon Road with about 2,500 registered voters – is her home, too.

“The Heights have been my home for 11 years,” she said. “I understand he grew up here, but it’s my home now. ... I’m proud to say it’s my home, I’m proud to raise my kids in New Hampshire. Every bit of the place that I live in is my joy.”

Wazir, a Concord High School graduate, focused on pushing her platform of education equality, saying places like Franklin, which has struggled to maintain its education system in the face of low property values and high education costs, should have the same access to education as other cities.

“It shouldn’t be divided into cities and counties,” she said. “Everyone deserves an equal opportunity.”

Wazir said she wants to focus on Medicaid expansion, increasing housing opportunities and instilling paid family medical leave in New Hampshire, should she get elected.

Wazir has eight weeks before she faces Soucy in the general election in November. But on Tuesday night, she planned to go home and relax with her two children, who she hadn’t seen all day.

“I’ve missed them for 12, 13 hours,” she said.

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