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Tahirah Amatul-Wadud to challenge Neal

  • Tahirah Amatul-Wadud announced her bid for a Congressional Seat at McCuskers Market in Shelburne Falls on Tuesday morning. December 19, 2017 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—

  • Tahirah Amatul-Wadud announced her bid for a Congressional Seat at McCuskers Market in Shelburne Falls on Tuesday morning. December 19, 2017 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—

  • Tahirah Amatul-Wadud announced her bid for a Congressional Seat at McCuskers Market in Shelburne Falls on Tuesday morning. December 19, 2017 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz...

  • Tahirah Amatul-Wadud announced her bid for a Congressional Seat at McCuskers Market in Shelburne Falls on Tuesday morning. December 19, 2017 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz...

  • Tahirah Amatul-Wadud announced her bid for a Congressional Seat at McCusker’s Market in Shelburne Falls on Tuesday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

SHELBURNE FALLS — Congressional candidate Tahirah Amatul-Wadud appeared before an enthusiastic crowd in McCusker’s Market Tuesday morning, announcing she will challenge U.S. Rep. Richard Neal for his 1st District congressional seat in 2018.

“What I see are strong needs; we need a strong advocate. An advocate who hears the people. An advocate who understands the people,” said Amatul-Wadud, an attorney from Springfield. She has a law office in Chicopee and practices in Massachusetts and New York.

“I want to support strong job growth and job development. One of the things we need? High-speed internet.”

Without it, she said, “How will we bring companies here? How will we bring strong buildings and businesses here? How can we make sure the children will know how to use the internet and all the things that come with it? They should not be 20 years behind in technology usage. That will be my primary issue for these communities, to make sure these communities have high-speed internet. Affordable access for everybody. That helps build our economy, our communities, and brings them into the 21st century. Priority Number One for this community.”

Amatul-Wadud went on to say, “I also know that the rural districts need our support, that farm communities need our support. Why do we take them for granted? They need our support.”

Amatul-Wadud turned 44 the day she made her announcement. She was born in New York, but her family moved to western Massachusetts when she was 9 years old. Home-schooled as a child, she attended Elms College in Chicopee, and graduated cum laude in 1998. She later attended the Western New England University School of Law in Springfield, while working full-time, and graduated in 2005.

A Muslim herself, she has served as lead counsel in cases involving religious intolerance toward Muslims. She has advocated for awareness of the threats of violence facing the Muslim community. She has served on the Commission on the Status of Women in Massachusetts for four years. She is also on the board of the National Conference for Community & Justice and the committee for the Hampden County Bar Association’s Children’s Law Project.

In 2015, she was invited to the White House for a program on “Celebrating our American Tradition of Pluralism,” and met with Vanita Gupta, who was then assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office during the Obama administration.

Matt L. Barron of Chesterfield, a political research consultant who attended the rally, said the movement to find a Democratic challenger to Congressman Neal “grew out of the fact that, in 2016, Richard Neal was not coming around. And then he started asking for town meetings earlier this year.”

Barron said constituents were asking for town meetings, and Neal held a town meeting in Shelburne Falls on the opioid crisis, but “he did it during the weekday, when many (working) people couldn’t come. He kept it to one issue,” Barron said, saying constituents would have liked to discuss other issues as well.

Amatul-Wadud said, “People want jobs, stable housing. They want us to talk about the opioid crisis. Women need help with childcare, with education. When I see these things come across my desk, or in interfaith services, I say: Why are these cries for help going unanswered and what can I do? To me, running for this office is the way I can make the most heavy impact.”

When Amatul-Wadud asked those present about their concerns, Nancy Eisenstein of Shelburne said, “Bring honesty and integrity back to the White House. It’s such a cesspool. There’s no convictions, no courage. Everyone is being bought and sold. You seem like the kind of person that wouldn’t put up with that nonsense. You’re a mom to start with,” she said to the candidate, who has seven children. “Go into there and do some ‘mom’ talk with them.”

“When you have a background like me,” said Amatul-Wadud, “when you look like me, when you have a name like me and you’re going into a field like law, you really are having to overcome all sorts of variables, all sorts of competing ideas. You’re having to constantly debunk myths — spoken and unspoken.”

She told her audience, “I’m beholden to no one but you. That’s it. That’s how I practice law, that’s how I’ll run this campaign, and that’s how I’ll represent you. Doing strong work, as a woman, gives me some push-back. People are going to write some crazy things about me online. There’s going to be lots of fake news, elements of xenophobia, Islamophobia, there’s going to be elements of racism, it’s going to be sexist and elements of misogynistic.”

One of her online plans is to host a weekly check-in with constituents called “Plat-chat,” in which she takes up a platform plank and brings in an expert constituent from western Massachusetts to discuss the issue.

Her campaign website is:

tahirahforcongress.com