Ola Hawatmeh, the apparent Republican nominee for New York’s 19th congressional district, doesn’t bring many surprises to the table policy-wise. She’s an adamant supporter of the President, wants to build a wall on the southern border, opposes Obamacare, and is endorsed by the National Rifle Association. Her personal story, however, is unlike that of any candidate in history.
Hawatmeh, 43, is the daughter of Catholic Jordanian immigrants, a domestic abuse survivor, and she’s beaten cancer twice. Oh, and her job? A fashion designer.
‘I’m a people’s person,’ she told The Spectator. ‘And I’ve always been a philanthropist.’
Hawatmeh uses her experience in design and business to run fashion shows and makeovers for charity, specifically helping fellow domestic abuse and cancer survivors. As the daughter of Middle Eastern immigrants and the mother of three children of her own, Hawatmeh said she’s running for Congress to help conserve what distinguishes the US from the rest of the world.
‘Protecting the Constitution is very important to me because my parents came from a land of misery to America for freedom,’ she said. ‘The opportunities that I have — that it gave me and my family — they wouldn’t have in the Middle East. They came from isolation to liberation. We’re liberated here — I don’t take that for granted.’
Hawatmeh’s parents immigrated from Jordan to New York 40 years ago. She said her father started as a factory worker making $2.20 an hour and is now a successful real estate agent. Growing up, her parents put an emphasis on traditional Christian values. This, she says, is a prime example of the value of immigration, which she emphasized must be done legally, as her parents did.
‘They lived the American dream the right way,’ she told The Spectator. ‘They created by working hard and they instilled that in us. They instilled independence and work ethic and the pride of being an American.’
But Hawatmeh knows that for her, it will take more than just a strong work ethic to win in November. She’s challenging Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado, who flipped the district blue in 2018. The election drew national attention when the Republican incumbent, John Faso, was heavily criticized for what some called a race-baiting campaign. Faso ran an ad with the National Republican Congressional Committee that attempted to discredit Delgado, who is both African American and Hispanic, by showing excerpts of his more than decade-old music as a rapper known as ‘AD the Voice’. Hawatmeh vows not to make the same mistake.
‘I’m not going to bring up his rap,’ she told me. ‘I’m a fashion designer, so what? So me being a model and being a fashion designer doesn’t qualify? I will not insult or injure his character in any way. We’ll be talking about politics and policy and what changes have been made in the district.’
Delgado, who is also 43, is a graduate of Queen’s College, Oxford and Harvard Law School. After a few years rapping in Los Angeles, he moved back to New York to start a successful career in law.
Delgado, with the help of an endorsement from former President Barack Obama, won in 2018 despite President Trump winning the district by nearly seven percent in 2016. Hawatmeh told The Spectator she had a call with the White House last week in which an official told her the President, who is impressed with her pro-life and pro-gun campaign, plans to endorse her. There’s no shortage of star power in this race.
New York’s 19th, which covers parts of 11 counties in the Catskills and Hudson Valley after a history of heavy redistricting, has voted in favor of each winner of the presidential election since 1996. Hawatmeh said that despite the district’s status as a bellwether, many of these rural counties are largely ignored by politicians. During the primary, she hoped to change that by traveling around the district to drop off gift baskets containing a pocket Constitution, a stress ball, a rose (New York’s state flower) and other goodies at houses that had a yard sign supporting her campaign.
Hawatmeh said she has tremendous respect for Delgado but is confident her campaign will win due to her appeal to blue-collar voters.
‘Everyone is ready for change,’ she said. ‘You know why? Because the economy sucks in the district. The economy sucks all around. People need to make money — we need to reopen the country.’
Editor’s note 7/20 9:30 a.m.: Ola Hawatmeh was defeated in the Republican primary for NY-19 by Kyle van de Water.