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5 Questions for Anna Eskamani, the First Iranian-American Elected to the Florida Legislature

Credit: Emily Wray

This post was originally published on Teen Vogue by Azmia Magane.

On Tuesday, November 6, an unprecedented wave of women were elected to both state-level offices and the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Among them was 28-year-old Anna Eskamani, who became the first Iranian-American elected to serve in the Florida legislature.

Eskamani, the daughter of Iranian immigrants, is a Democrat who ran on a platform that promised she would cosponsor legislation to ban assault weapons, protect health care coverage for preexisting conditions, and see that mental health care funding in her state was increased. On October 1, she was endorsed by former president Barack Obama.

Eskamani ultimately won House District 47 this week, defeating her Republican opponent, Stockton Reeves, by winning 57.35% of votes, according to unofficial results posted Tuesday night on the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website.

During the campaign, an ad funded by the Republican Party of Florida sent out attack mailers touting her as “extremely vulgar” because of her use of phrases such as “p/*ssy power!” and “f/*ck the patriarchy!” during the Women’s March in 2017. Many of the alleged “vulgarities”

Eskamani was accused of using were taken out of context from speeches she’d given at various protests or marches, prompting Eskamani to write an op-ed entitled “Yes, I am a woman running for office, and yes, I curse.“

After the mailers were sent out to constitutents, she clapped back on Twitter and pointed out what she sees as an obvious sexist double standard in the way political candidates are treated: President Donald Trump talked about grabbing women by the p/*ssy — sexual assault — and became the president of the United States, but when she talked about “p/*ssy power” — a slogan of liberation used in a women’s empowerment context, Eskamani was branded as “extremely vulgar.”

Teen Vogue spoke with the newly elected official fresh off her midterms win. The conversation below has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Teen Vogue: What motivated you to run for office?

Anna Eskamani: I am an Orlando native and the daughter of working-class immigrants from Iran. When I was 13 years old, I lost my mom to cancer. That loss is what inspires me each and every day to fight for Florida’s hardworking families.

As a first-time candidate, my motivation to run for public office was grounded in my love for community, a desire to facilitate the success of others, and a passion for the issues that matter the most — like protecting our environment, defending our public schools, ensuring access to health care, and reducing gun violence.

TV: Did your identity as an Iranian-American woman ever become an issue on the campaign trail?

AE: I have always been proud of my Iranian-American identity and honored to share parts of my culture with others. Though I did not feel like my cultural identity was an issue on the campaign trail, our opponents tried to make it one: I faced hostile cyber-bullying that was racially motivated.

TV: Attack mailers sent out by the Florida GOP called you “too extreme for central Florida.” What were these “radical” ideas they were referencing and, why do you think you were criticized in this way?

AE: For my opponent and the Republican Party of Florida, my very existence was radical.

TV: Tell us about your plans once you get into office.

AE: Protecting our environment, defending our public schools, ensuring access to health care, and reducing gun violence are my top priorities. Florida had the fifth-highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation, and now is the time to expand Medicaid and close the coverage gap. We also know that Florida ranks 50/50 on mental health funding — this impacts everyday Floridians, including veterans with PTSD, first responders, and our young people. In addition to mental health funding, we must guarantee a pay raise for our public school teachers, provide additional support to special-ed programming, and eliminate high-stakes testing while ensuring a path of success for our students, whether they choose to attend a traditional higher-education institution or seek advancement through a technical college. Finally, I plan to bring science back to the Florida legislature and hold polluters accountable, while combating the realities of climate change.

TV: What advice do you have for young women who want to get into politics, get more involved in their communities, or just want to make a difference?

AE: Be your authentic self and find mentors who will support you and your growth.

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