Washtenaw County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi announced his candidacy for state representative to the 53rd Michigan House District in the Buhr Park Children’s Wet Meadow Project on Monday afternoon.
Rabhi said he chose to launch his candidacy at the park because it was the place that spurred his political career — when he was in pre-school.
“This is where I realized, not only the power of the environment and nature to make good change, but the power of community to come together and make it happen,” he said.
In his address to his supporters and family, he noted some of the change he brought to Washtenaw County as commissioner, including building a community dental clinic for low-income residents, passing preferred ordinances for local and environmentally-friendly businesses and extending municipal ID cards to residents without other forms of identification, such as undocumented immigrants, the elderly and those living under the poverty line.
While creating programs to spur social justice, Rabhi said he also produced a balanced municipal budget for four years and achieved a triple-A bond rating for the first time in Washtenaw County history. He said his success both socially and economically proves him a worthy contender for the race.
“This shows you that you can have fiscal stability and you can have social change all in one,” he said. “One does not have to compromise the other, we can work on both and still achieve a better community.”
Rabhi has resided in Ann Arbor his entire life, attending Huron High School and earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University in 2010. Along with being county commissioner, he works full-time at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.
City Councilmember Sabra Briere endorsed Rabhi and attended the event in support of his campaign.
She said his ability to work within a local community, as well as enthusiasm and dedication to his job, made him an outstanding county commissioner.
These qualities will aid him in Lansing, where passing legislature is more difficult, she said.
“His creativity and his ability to work with people from all walks of life and all backgrounds really recommend him to work in a tough place like Lansing, where getting something through the legislature requires compromise and intelligence.” Briere said. “Rabhi possesses both.”
Zachary Ackerman, the Ann Arbor City Council Democratic nominee and an LSA senior, said he believes Rabhi understands the University student community well because he was elected into the Washtenaw County board of commissioners during his senior year at the University.
“Like me, he was elected into office when he was a senior in college, and I think when you have the energy to do something like that, it doesn’t stop,” Ackerman said.
Public Policy senior Max Lerner, chair of the College Democrats chapter at the University, said he applauds Rabhi’s unconventional policy initiatives, such as distributing municipal IDs for undocumented people in the Midwest, where they tend to be less common. Like Ackerman, Lerner said Rabhi is aware and receptive to student voices in Ann Arbor.
“I do not think anybody in government is as conscious of student issues as Yousef,” Lerner said.