by By Ken Marten
This year’s state representative election in District 30 could pit Chaldean against Chaldean. Real estate agent Nick Najjar, a partner in Madison Group Realty, is running as a Democrat. Michael Shallal, an intelligence analyst and operations manager for ISHPI, a Fortune 500 company, is running as a Republican.
Both are Sterling Heights residents and must best an opponent in the August 7 Michigan Primary before being included on the General Election ballot in November. Najjar squares off against hopeful Joe Bogdan. Shallal, by conventional political wisdom, has a tougher challenge because he faces incumbent Rep. Jeff Farrington, who is running for a second two-year term.
According to RightMichigan.com, a website dedicated to conservative issues within Michigan politics, House District 30 leans “slightly” Republican, and Farrington is likely to be returned to office. The district, which was redrawn for 2012 to reflect changes revealed as a result of the 2010 Census, now includes all of Utica, western Sterling Heights and southeastern Shelby Township.
This year’s primary is the second bout between Shallal and Farrington. They faced each other in the 2010 primary, a three-way race in which Farrington won and Shallal finished third.
“When I lost two years ago, I came to a point where I resented politics,” Shallal said. “But I came around and decided to run again. I don’t get discouraged easily. I never stop trying. My primary race is just going to be brutal.”
Shallal, 32, acknowledges that he has an uphill battle, but that’s something he knows about firsthand. ISHPI provides services to the intelligence community, and Shallal has been on the ground aplenty in Iraq working in a civilian attachment to military units. He’s served eight tours since 2002 that collectively equal five years, and has survived three battlefield injuries.
Shallal was born and raised in Baghdad and moved to the United States at age 17. Besides English, he speaks Aramaic, Farsi, Arabic and Spanish. And while he’s proud of his ethnicity, he doesn’t hang his hat on it.
“I’m not out there to run for Chaldean mayor,” said Shallal, who is married and has two children. “I’m running to represent everyone in the district. I don’t consider myself a Chaldean. I am an American.”
Among Shallal’s main platform issues are resolving the state’s current debt crisis and avoiding new debt, fewer regulations on business and no tax increases for businesses or individuals, more government transparency, strengthening education, and protecting senior citizens’ financial and medical securities.
“I want to put some common sense and some logic into elected office,” Shallal said. “A lot of people with good intentions don’t make it into politics. I want to prove a point. It sounds farfetched and unreal, but I’m willing to take a chance.”
Shallal, who is also president of Amp7 Inc., a Michigan-based company that consults for the defense industry, is trying a fairly unique tactic in political campaign funding.
“I refuse to take any money from groups or corporations,” he said. “I’ll put my money, my reputation, my energy on the line and hope to initiate a positive outcome.”
Najjar, 52, is running for office for the first time, although he’s served in a variety of appointed positions. He’s a former member of the Sterling Heights Ethnic Community Committee, Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, and Troy’s Downtown Development Authority. Najjar served in an advisory capacity to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Robert Ficano when the current Wayne County Executive was sheriff.
“I’ve been working with the public for the last 20 years,” Najjar said. “Our community – the district – needs to have an effective voice. We need to be included. I want to shake up Lansing. Both parties are not working very well.”
Najjar said his political role model is former U.S. Rep. David Bonior, a Macomb County Democrat who held office from 1977 to 2003.
“He was a champion for people who had no voice,” Najjar said. “I was referred to Mr. Bonior from somebody when I had a problem, and he delivered 100 percent of what he said he’d do.”
Najjar was born in Iraq, moved to the United States in 1983 and became a citizen in 1989. He returned to Iraq in 2008, ultimately spending 14 months there as a Department of Defense media advisor assigned to the Army. He’s also a former board member of the Chaldean Federation of America and served for 17 years as parish president at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church.
Najjar’s platform includes supporting increased funding for public schools, increased funding for police and fire departments, repealing pension taxes and supporting an economic climate in which big and small businesses can thrive.
“In America we need to put the citizen first, not the party, and not fighting the opposing party,” Najjar said. “I’ve crossed the party line many times. I voted for Rep. Candace Miller and Gov. Snyder” (both Republicans).
A realtor for 17 years, Najjar hosts the long-running “Real Estate and the Law” radio show on WNZK 690/680 AM. He’s also a member of Macomb County’s Emergency Management Team, sort of a miniature FEMA that responds to local disasters. Najjar is divorced and has three children.
Learn more about the candidates at their websites: MichaelShallal.com and Najjar4Michigan.com.