CO: Muslim Candidate Seeks Detente with Own Party


I am going to break a personal rule today and write about someone running for local or statewide office. My rule: Let 'em take out an ad.

But Rima Barakat Sinclair is a worthy exception. That's because few would envy her candidacy.

The reasons are, in no particular order, that she is a registered Republican and a Muslim of Palestinian ancestry running for the legislature in a heavily Democratic and Jewish district. Problematic, to be certain, but she never expected be branded an Israel-hating "terror apologist" and worse, most of it Web-circulating bile. Yes, she has received threats to her safety. Some of them have come from her own party, with whom she was scheduled to meet Thursday night to plead for a detente of sorts.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have known Rima Barakat Sinclair for several years, first meeting her at court hearings where she served as translator for attorneys and their Arabic-speaking clients. We, too, would run into each other at various bars and social gatherings.

This is how much I really knew of her: When she told me months ago that she was running, as a Republican, for term-limited Democratic House Speaker Andrew Romanoff's seat, I nearly fell over. Do you know anything about House District 6? I asked her.

We met for lunch the other day. Rima Barakat Sinclair, 48, looked tired, as if she hadn't slept. The reason could have been related to the e-mail and other nastiness she had been receiving in recent weeks.

She was born one of four daughters of a wealthy Palestinian family in Amman, Jordan. She knew early on she was not meant for the life that entailed being confined to the home like her older sisters, she said. And when time for college arrived, she left for the U.S.

In July 1998, she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. Two days later, she said, she joined the Republican Party.

"I felt it was the more fiscally responsible party," she explained. "I liked its emphasis on family values."

How she arrived at this current nasty patch, she said, happened innocently enough. She walked into a March 1 party meeting as just another District 6 delegate. There were about 50 people in the room.

Who wanted to run for the speaker's seat? No one raised their hand.

Finally, she said, one gentleman volunteered. He got up, answered a few questions, was peppered on a few of them related to abortion, and sat down.

"He was very liberal," Rima Barakat Sinclair recalled. "I told myself, 'I can do better promoting the conservative view.' I raised my hand."

Her nomination immediately was seconded. After she won the vote, 25-23, the man withdrew. A second vote gave her the unanimous nod.

"I really thought I was doing something good," Rima Barakat Sinclair said, "never thinking anyone would label me this Islamist, terrorist sympathizer. Holy moly, what has happened?"

A lot of it has been the chatter around a nascent challenge by Joshua Sharf, a Republican blogger and, he points out, Orthodox Jew, who, in an interview, says Sinclair's nomination alarmed him.

 


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