The founder of a national organization devoted to recruiting Muslim candidates is running for office himself in Coral Springs, Florida. It remains to be seen whether an alleged history of links to terror-tied groups will impact his candidacy.
Attorney Khurrim Wahid is competing for the June 18 election for Coral Springs City Commission Seat 2. Wahid is the founder of Emgage (originally named EmergeUSA), an organization that promotes Muslim candidates running for office that got its start raising funds for the election of former congressman Keith Ellison.
Wahid has already unsurprisingly received the endorsement of EmgagePAC. Before creating Emgage, Wahid served as legal adviser for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and as director of CAIR Florida. CAIR was subsequently labeled a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates. During the 2008 Holy Land Foundation Trial, the U.S. government showed conclusively that CAIR was founded in 1993 as part of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States in order to support the terrorist organization Hamas. The federal judge in the case ruled that the government had supplied "ample evidence" to associate CAIR with Hamas.
Wahid's past clients include convicted Palestinian Islamic Jihad organizer Sami Al Arian and Pakistani imam Hafiz Khan, who was convicted of conspiring with the Pakistani Taliban to murder U.S. troops overseas. In addition, he defended Rafiq Sabir, who is serving 25 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to al-Qaeda. Wahid also represented Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who received a life sentence for attempting to assassinate then-president George W. Bush. He was also added to the federal terrorism watch list himself in 2011. Despite his affiliations, Wahid has received endorsements from the Broward Young Democrats. On May 26, he was endorsed by the Florida branch of one of America's largest unions, the Service Employees International Union.
Wahid also received support from several major mainstream Democratic politicians, including former Miami Dade Democratic Party chair Annette Tadeo, Congresswoman Debbie Murcasel-Powell, Florida state senator Gary Farmer, and Florida state representative Shawn Jones. Wahid also received support from two Broward County commissioners: Beam Furr and Barbara Sharief.
South Florida Democrats should already be aware of the controversy surrounding Wahid's background. Democratic candidate for Florida governor Andrew Gillum faced criticism in 2018 for attending an event with Wahid organized by Emgage. In 2015, then–Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen chose to donate a campaign contribution from Khurram Wahid to charity after being made aware of his history. And in 2012, then–Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz withdrew from an event with Wahid's EmergeUSA group after conservative media outlets began running stories about Wahid's history.
It remains to be seen whether the controversy over Wahid's history will impact his political run. If major Democratic leaders do not distance themselves from Wahid, it may suggest that the political landscape has shifted dramatically from even a few years ago, when such controversial ties may have been disqualifying.
Rebecca Witonsky is the South Florida associate of the Counter Islamist Grid.