Ohio's First Albanian-American Senate Candidate, Besa Sharrah, Aims to Bring Unique Perspective to Legislation

 In the upcoming Ohio State Senate elections scheduled for November 5th, a historic candidacy has emerged, marking the first time an Albanian-American will run for the position. Besa Sharrah, a representative of the Republican Party, is campaigning to become a legislator in the state she immigrated to in 2005.

Besa behind a car with an American and Ohio flag with her hands up giving two thumbs up as part of the campaign
 Besa Sharrah behind a car with an American and Ohio flag with her hands up giving two thumbs up as part of the campaign
In an interview with Voice of America, Sharrah shared that her family's persecution during the era of communism fueled her ambition to fight for democracy. As a result, she became politically active at a young age and has been involved in Republican structures for the past 11 years. Now, with the party's support, she is vying for a Senate seat.

Sharrah's journey in the United States began around 20 years ago when she came to study engineering at Wright State University in Ohio. After graduating and establishing a successful career in mechanical engineering and information technology, she decided to transition into the political arena.

Her desire to engage in politics is deeply rooted in her family's struggles before the establishment of democracy in Albania. The Sharrah family, known for supporting democracy under the oppressive regime, faced persecution, with seven family members executed for their democratic ideals.

"I come from a highly persecuted family in Albania – the Sharrah family. We were a family that supported democracy at all costs, advocating for individual rights, which was in direct opposition to the dictatorial system. As a result, seven members of my family were executed, all of them educated abroad, with a democratic vision for the country, aiming to bring a Western perspective to Albania," she explained.

Initially, Sharrah became involved in local political activities in Columbus, the city where she resided. However, she consistently sought to participate in broader campaigns across Ohio. For the past 11 years, she has been an active member of the Republican Party and is now their candidate for the Ohio State Senate.

"I am the first Albanian here in Ohio who, God willing, will become part of the Ohio legislature here in America. The President of the Ohio Senate felt that I would be an excellent candidate for this electorate, particularly due to the fact that I am an immigrant, what we call a new American," Sharrah mentioned.

When asked about the challenges of running as an immigrant, she acknowledged that the political landscape has evolved, and the Republican Party now values immigrants' perspectives, especially those with educational backgrounds and unique experiences from different systems, such as the Albanian dictatorship.

"It's a very unique moment. If you had asked me, for example, 10 years ago to be part of the Republican Party as an immigrant, it wasn't something considered normal. They would ask, 'What business do you have here since they don't like immigrants,' and so on. In fact, I felt a completely different truth. The desire of Republicans, especially to have immigrants in their ranks, who are not only educated but also have the unique background that we have, like the Albanian system, which was a dictatorship," she elaborated.

Sharrah believes that this has served as a positive development for individuals in positions of influence who understand the need for candidates who remind people why America is the land of dreams and the promised land for many immigrants.

"This is reflected in me as a candidate who comes from a country of dictatorship and from a family heavily persecuted by the dictatorship. I have a different perspective to tell people that dictatorship and democracy are not so far apart, so we must preserve our rights with whatever means we have and remain vigilant about our democracy," she emphasized.

Regarding the decision of the party to nominate her, she emphasized that her career in the private sector played a role. She stated that the electorate in Ohio's 16th district, where she aims to secure votes, faces the same challenges as many Americans nationwide, such as high inflation and educational concerns.

"We have unprecedented inflation, at least for as long as I have lived here. We have also seen a rise in home prices, making it even more difficult for citizens to have a clear and stable economy for how they will live. Additionally, education and schools continue to be a significant part of my advocacy," she added.

As she continues her political activism in the United States, Sharrah has also been active in advocating for issues that touch the Albanian diaspora, such as the right of emigrants to vote.

"The constitution of a country must be implemented in its entirety. The right to vote for the diaspora is a right guaranteed in the Constitution. And at this moment, we do not have this right. I am an Albanian-American, and my desire is for these connections to continue with Albania, especially in these delicate moments for Albanian democracy. As long as the diaspora's vote is not implemented, I think the Albanian state is in complete contradiction with the Albanian Constitution. For this reason, I support the diaspora's vote," she emphasized.

Asked about what winning these elections would mean to her, Sharrah expressed that it would be a dream come true.

"It would be the culmination of a very, very long dream. This is a dream that I feel, and I think about it every day. Firstly, and most importantly, it would be the fact that finally, a citizen coming from another country, not born here, would have the opportunity not only to observe the legislation being drafted in her state but now be a part of the laws, bringing a different perspective, a different narrative. This is also related to the fact that we are in a very unique moment in the American state. The American state is a state of immigrants. I think it is more than right to have people like me who love this country, want to see it continue on the right path, and preserve that American dream for which we all came here," she concluded.
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