Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a candidate for Congress, is difficult to miss on the cracked sidewalks of Main Street on a 96-degree day. A blue hijab is wrapped around her head and a yellow abaya falls to her feet as she pops into a cluster of small shops in a heavily Puerto Rican neighborhood.
"I'm struggling here," says Carmelo Hernandez, whose furniture and bedding business had been empty until Amatul-Wadud walked through the door.
She listens, shakes his hand, and says with a broad smile: "My husband will come back and get a mattress."
Amatul-Wadud is a black, Muslim woman who has never run for political office and is now seeking to unseat Representative Richard Neal, a 15-term incumbent who would become chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee if Democrats regain control of the House.