Ola Hawatmeh has been driving since early this morning, trying to squeeze in …
Ola Hawatmeh has been driving since early this morning, trying to squeeze in more time in the sprawling district she wants to represent in Congress.
The Oneonta resident and mother of three, 43, is running against Kyle Van De Water in the June 23 Republican primary for New York’s 19th Congressional District. The winner will face Democrat Antonio Delgado.
Finding a spot with cell coverage or public WiFi in Greene County, so she could make a call, was a little trickier, but she did finally manage. It underscored one of her issues.
“We don’t need 5G here, but we do need coverage,” she said.
Hawatmeh has been spending her days with rural farmers, who feel abandoned by politicians, she said. “People’s voices need to be heard...Why aren’t we holding [politicians] accountable?”
She readily lists off the problems that she wants to do something about. “We have to put a stop to the violence,” she said, in the middle of a conversation about police and protesters. “The segregation. [George Floyd’s] death was very wrong. They (the officers involved) will be prosecuted and they deserve to go to jail.”
But, she says, that doesn’t mean all policemen should be blamed for what those men did. These “are hard-working officers.”
Illegal immigration is another of her issues. Her parents immigrated legally from Jordan, and her father worked in “a factory, making $2.25 an hour. My parents worked hard.”
A New York State native, Hawatmeh is a small business owner -- she worked in fashion, designing clothes, appearing on Fox in St. Louis, where she lived for a time. She donated makeovers to women applying for jobs.
But breast cancer upended her life. She then created a clothing line for cancer survivors, became known for charitable work, moved back to Dutchess County, moved to Oneonta, and finally decided to run for office.
Her Christian faith is part of what drives her, she said. “I’m an American and a Christian. The Constitution is important to me, the Second Amendment, and I am proudly pro-life.”
Healthcare is another of her interests. “I’m a cancer survivor, and I know what it’s like when the bills pile up,” she said.
Since her move, she’s been talking to farmers. She’s seen milk dumped, fields left fallow. “I saw what they get. They get nothing. Farmers just want to break even.” If elected, she’d try to get the USDA to ease regulations so farms can stay in business.
Hawatmeh also supports lower taxes. “Tax cuts and tax breaks for farmers and small business,” she said. People “are moving out of the district and nobody cares.”
Jobs are needed, she said. The opioid crisis “is insane...Let’s find a solution.”
“It’s not about left and right,” she added. “I’m working for every citizen in this district. This is the time to make changes. People have lost hope, they’ve lost jobs...there is no compassion in Congress.”