Since June, Omar Vaid has accumulated nearly 20,000 Twitter followers. The Democratic candidate looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R) in the 11th Congressional district that encompasses Staten Island and parts of Southern Brooklyn says his rapid upswing of Twitter followers comes as a result of people responding to his ideas.
“We challenge the White House on a daily basis,” said Vaid. “We challenge the GOP, we challenge Donovan and Grimm, but we also speak out against corporate greed.”
But the 37-year old contender also said he uses the platform to give a voice to the voiceless. When one of his followers wrote him a note asking him to do something about fetal personhood legislation that had been incorporated in the recent tax bill, Vaid obliged with a tweet. That tweet garnered nearly 30,000 re-tweets and over 2 million views.
Vaid’s national campaign includes countrywide donors such as from North Dakota, who he said was the last state to join the movement.
“The Assistant Attorney General of North Dakota donated to our campaign,” said Vaid.
It’s through Twitter the candidate looks to rally the constituents of NY-11 and hopes that his unorthodox method of campaigning nationally does so. Vaid compared his campaign to that of Doug Jones (D) who recently won an Alabama Senate race against favored Republican candidate, Roy Moore. Both Jones and Vaid do share one thing in common – Steve Bannon, a former White House top advisor, backed at least one of their opponents.
While his campaigning style has won him nationwide support, Vaid says that over 50 percent of supporters are within the district and as a former resident of Bay Ridge he is in tune with what NY-11 faces – including the targeting Arabic-speaking communities for deportation and the opioid crisis that has impacted Staten Island and Southern Brooklyn.
“I wonder if maybe when you’re 18 and you get your usual weed delivery that that becomes a trusted person in your life,” said Vaid. “I wonder if that person who has been getting your weed can also up-sell you into new things.”
The candidate says marijuana should be regulated and taxed so that it can be sold locally, like cigarettes and alcohol, all in an effort to avoid exposing youngsters to drug dealers. Vaid also took the time to criticize U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s policies of maximum sentencing for drug possession as completely outdated.
As an advocate of Medicare for All, Vaid said it is the best strategy for harm reduction but strongly opposes drugs such as Vivitrol which he claimed acts as an ineffective placebo despite the company’s aggressive lobbying efforts to make the drug a key resource for recovering addicts.
Even the offices where Vaid houses his campaigns are strategically chosen in opposition to the GOP. His Staten Island office is located on Victory and Bay St., across the street from where police chokehold victim, Eric Garner, died. Donovan was the Staten Island District Attorney at the time of Garner’s death and failed to indict the police officer responsible for performing the chokehold on the victim.
His Brooklyn office is situated in a largely Muslim section of Bay Ridge.
“Here we are sitting in a Yemeni travel agency and this is a great way to push back on the Muslim ban,” said Vaid.
Vaid’s campaign office is one of four commercial residents nestled inside Mubarez Travel Inc. at 7207 Fifth Ave. A graphic artist and attorney share the space that the candidate jokingly refers to as an Arabian WeWork. Vaid has the front desk where he sits in front of an American flag, a Justin Brannan campaign poster with Arabic and English writing as well as his own, a framed photo of John F. Kennedy and a hard copy of Matt Taibbi’s, “I Can’t Breathe: A Killing On Bay Street,” – the story of the death of Eric Garner.
As a Muslim-American whose parents were born in India and a former resident of Bay Ridge, Vaid says he has a connection with the area and pointed out the incumbent’s remarks after President Trump announced his travel policy.
“On Twitter he writes, ‘Trump’s travel ban makes us more safe,’” said Vaid about Donovan. “It’s a complete insult to everyone here. It’s just about people wanting to see their grandparents. It’s just complete bigotry.”
And while Vaid touts his affinity of Bay Ridge and its Arab-speaking community, the candidate contends he will be a Congressmember for all people. At the same time, Vaid insists the conversation of race is imperative and used the proposed border wall as an example.
“If people can’t see beyond the bigotry of the White House, they can’t see that [the wall] is a waste of money,” said Vaid. “That’s the same infrastructure money that I’m proposing should go to real improvements here.”
Vaid said he would rather see improvements to the MTA, new ferries in the South Shore and a Path extension in the North Shore.
“It’s the same budget,” said Vaid. “But if you’re afraid of Mexicans in Texas, then we cant’ have it.”
Vaid will primary against Michael DeCillis, Paul Sterling, Max Rose, Zach Emig, Michael DeVito Jr. and Radhakrishna Mohan.