In an impressive display of the South Florida melting pot, Palm Beach
County Democrats elected a Muslim as their party chairman for the next two
years. His strongest supporters were Jewish politicians, activists and club
presidents from south county.
He narrowly was elected by leaders of a deeply divided party. But the
division shown by his 109-103 victory over incumbent Carol Ann Loehndorf
had nothing to do with Wahid Mahmood's religion.
It didn't happen overnight.
One of his earliest champions, Sylvia Wolfe-Herman, is a vice president of
the United South County Democratic Club. One of her missions in the past
year was getting Mahmood acquainted with the largely Jewish Democratic
leadership in south county.
Wolfe-Herman, who is Jewish, said there was initially some unease. "Until
they got to know who he was and what he was all about ... there was a
mistrust," she said.
Eventually his personality, enthusiasm for politics and affection for the
Democratic Party won many converts.
Andre Fladell, a prominent south county activist, helped Mahmood's effort
to become chairman, and considers Jewish support for the Muslim leader
significant. He said Jewish party activists understand that Mahmood, who is
originally from Bangladesh, doesn't share attitudes held by people Fladell
characterized as extremists.
"The public will learn," Fladell said. "He's just an extraordinary
Mahmood, 42, said his winning with a Jewish base of supporters shows
followers of different faiths don't have to be divided.
He said he wants to bring all kinds of people together, at least if they're