Communications Intern posted an articleFrom Peace Corps to the house, senate, and more — at the state level see more
From Peace Corps to the house, senate, and more — at the state level
By Jake Arce and Jordana Comiter
New to the New York State Senate: Samra Brouk, who served as a Volunteer in Guatemala. Photo courtesy Samra Brouk.
John Garamendi (D-CA) is currently the sole Returned Peace Corps Volunteer in the U.S. Congress. What about at the state level? After recent elections, here’s where you’ll find a few in state houses, senates, and assemblies — as well as a secretary of state and governor.
Arthur Orr (Nepal 1989–91) was reelected to the State Senate in 2018. He has served since 2006 and chairs the $17 billion Senate Budget Committee for Education. With Peace Corps he served in a Himalayan village and established a college scholarship program for girls.
Jeni Arndt (Morocco 1990–92) was in her third term in the state’s House of Representatives but departs this spring; in April she was elected mayor of Fort Collins with 63 percent of the vote.
Gene Ward (Malaysia 1965–67; Country Director, East Timor 2005–06) was reelected in November to represent the 17th district in the state’s House of Representatives. Altogether he has served East Honolulu in the House more than 20 years.
Shenna Bellows (Panama 2000–02) was elected by the Legislature to be Maine’s secretary of state—the first woman elected to serve in the role. Served 2016–20 in the State Senate. At her swearing-in in January, she noted that her grandmother, who celebrated her 101st birthday days prior, was born in the year that saw final ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.
Robbyn Lewis (Niger 1990–91) serves in the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 46 in Baltimore. A public health professional who has worked with the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere, she sponsored House Bill 28 to help address health concerns in communities of color.
Jon Santiago (Dominican Republic 2006–08) was reelected to the state’s House of Representatives in November. With Peace Corps he was a community health specialist. Now he is an ER physician at Boston Medical Center, the city’s safety net hospital; and a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve who has deployed overseas. In February he declared his candidacy for mayor of Boston.
Rebecca Perkins Kwoka (Senegal 2004–06) was elected in November to the State Senate. Former council member for the city of Portsmouth, she is the first openly gay woman in the New Hampshire Senate, and is also a wife and mother.
Richard Ames (The Philippines 1968–70) was reelected to the state’s House of Representatives. He is vice chair of the Jaffrey Energy Committee and has served in the House since 2012.
Samra Brouk (Guatemala 2009–11) was elected to the State Senate to represent the 55th District in Rochester. The daughter of immigrants, her father fled Ethiopia during its civil war. As a college student, she volunteered with cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina; as a Peace Corps Volunteer she worked in health education.
Tom Wolf (India 1968–70) has served as governor since 2015; he was reelected in 2018. To recover from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, in February Wolf announced a $3 billion “Back to Work PA” plan.
Mary Dye (Thailand 1984–86) won reelection in November to the House of Representatives for the 9th legislative district in southeastern Washington. She was first appointed to the House in 2015.
Sara Rodriguez (Samoa 1997–99) was elected in November as Wisconsin State Representative for Assembly District 13, which includes Brookfield, Elm Grove, Wauwatosa, West Allis, and Milwaukee. She is a registered nurse and healthcare executive, and she has had various leadership positions with public health departments at the local, state and federal level, serving as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the CDC.
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleDonna Shalala will join John Garamendi and Joe Kennedy III in the House of Representatives see more
A national election of many firsts included this: among the more than 100 women who will serve within the new House of Representatives next January will be the first female Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) to serve in Congress.
In Miami, Iran RPCV Donna Shalala secured just under 52% of the vote to win the open seat in Florida’s 27th district. Shalala will join fellow RPCVs John Garamendi (Ethiopia) and Joseph Kennedy III (Dominican Republic) in the new, 116th Congress. Garamendi, representing California’s 3rd district, captured 57% of the vote to win his sixth term in Congress. Kennedy, who ran unopposed in Massachusetts’ 4th district, was re-elected Tuesday to his fourth term in office.
Three other RPCVs running for Congress were defeated in their efforts to unseat incumbents. In Ohio, 4th district Micronesia RPCV Janet Garrett and 15th district Morocco RPCV Rick Neal lost in races against incumbents Jim Jordan and Steve Stivers. Meanwhile in Utah, Moldova RPCV Shireen Ghorbani was defeated in her effort to unseat incumbent Congressman Chris Stewart.
Tuesday night also saw the return of Tom Wolf to the Pennsylvania Governor’s residence. The India RPCV was re-elected to a second term, winning nearly 58% of the vote.
Numerous other RPCVs ran for state and local office on Tuesday. Among those who were victorious were Panama RPCV Shenna Bellows, who was re-elected to the Maine State Senate. Just to the west in New Hampshire, Jamaica RPCV Matt Towne won an open seat in the state legislature.
Several RPCV lawmakers won election to state legislatures while running unopposed. They included newcomer Jon Santiago (Dominican Republic) in Massachusetts and incumbents Arthur Orr (Nepal) in Alabama and Jeni Arndt (Mozambique) in Colorado. Also in Colorado, Fort Collins State Senator John Kefalas (El Salvador) left his position and won election to serve as a Larimer County Commissioner.
Get Ready to Work
As we prepare our Peace Corps policy agenda for the next Congress, we will need your involvement as we also prepare for our 15th annual National Days of Action, starting on February 28th. Contact us today at email@example.com so we can start planning for your participation!
Jonathan Pearson posted an articleRPCV representation in Congress at lowest point since 1978 see more
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) Congressman Mike Honda (El Salvador ) lost his re-election bid Tuesday night. Coupled with the upcoming retirement of Representative Sam Farr (Colombia), Peace Corps representation in Congress will be at its lowest level in nearly 40 years.
With all precincts reporting in California's 17th District, the Associated Press reported Honda lost to fellow Democrat Ro Khanna by 60% to 40%. This rematch from the 2014 elections was one of the most watched and expensive House races in the country. Honda served in Congress for eight terms. Read more here.
The two other incumbent RPCV members of the House of Representatives won re-election comfortably. In California's 3rd District, Congressman John Garamendi (Ethiopia) won his fourth term, securing 60% of the vote. On the opposite side of the country, Joe Kennedy III (Dominican Republic) won re-election to his third term representing the 4th District of Massachusetts, winning 70% of the vote.
Two other RPCVs seeking election to the House were defeated on Tuesday. In Michigan's 6th Congressional District, Paul Clements (The Gambia) was defeated in his second attempt to unseat incumbent Fred Upton. Meanwhile in Florida's 8th congressional district, Corry Westbrook (Eastern Carribbean) was also unsuccessful in her second bid to win a congressional seat, losing to incumbent Bill Posey.