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Turkish Americans Running for Political Office

As of December 12, 2019, four Turkish Americans have announced their candidacy for federal, state, and local office in 2020. Two candidates, Alp Basaran and Cenk Uygur, are running as Democrats for the U.S. Congress from New Jersey and California, respectively. Ceylan Rowe, another Democrat, is running for the state legislature in Massachusetts, whereas Aycha Sawa is a candidate for the nonpartisan position of city controller in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Basaran, Uygur, and Rowe are vying to be the first Turkish Americans elected to federal and state offices. There have been only 11 Turkish Americans ever elected to public office, and only on the local level.  


Alp Basaran - NJ

Alp Basaran is running for Congress as a Democratic candidate in New Jersey’s 9th congressional district. The 9th district has the largest concentration of Turkish Americans in the United States, and the second-largest population of Muslim Americans.

The New Jersey Democratic primary will take place June 2, 2020. Basaran is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the UCLA School of Law, leading to a career as a corporate lawyer in New York. He also represented LGBTQ and HIV+ refugees on a pro bono basis. Basaran immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of four. He is married with two small children. Alp Basaran:


Ceylan Rowe - MA

Ceylan Rowe is running for the Massachusetts House of Representatives in the 2020 elections as a Democrat in the 12th Worcester District. The Massachusetts Democratic primary is September 1, 2020.

Rowe resides in Northborough. She is the founder and CEO of Trendy Napkin and is one of the commissioners in Massachusetts’s MetroWest Commission on the Status of Women (MWCSW). Rowe has worked at the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants, where she was the Special Assistant to the Executive Director. She is a graduate of Northeastern University and is currently working on her MBA at Babson College. She is married to Don Rowe, and they have two children

Ceylan Rowe:


Aycha Sawa - WI

Aycha (Sirvanci) Sawa is running for the nonpartisan position of Comptroller in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Internal Auditor, she has served as Deputy Comptroller for three years. The primary for the office of Comptroller will be February 18, 2020, and the general election will take place April 7. Sawa is a first-generation Turkish American born in the City of Milwaukee. She has an undergraduate degree in Accounting and Management from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduation, Sawa worked as an auditor in the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation and in a CPA firm before joining Milwaukee’s Comptroller Office. At the University of Wisconsin, she was an officer in the Madison Association of Turkish Students and started a Turkish film festival in Madison. She also attended a semester at Bosphorus University as an exchange student. Sawa has been an active member in the Turkish American Association in Milwaukee. She is married to Drew Sawa, and they have one daughter. Aycha Sawa:


Cenk Uygur - CA

Cenk Uygur is running for Congress as a Democratic candidate in California’s 25th congressional district. The seat became vacant after the resignation of Katie Hill in early November. The special election will be March 3, 2020. Uygur is the founder and host of the talk show The Young Turks and co-founder of the Justice Democrats. The Young Turks is considered one of the most watched online news shows in the world. He has also appeared as a political commentator on numerous news programs. Prior to his career in media, Uygur practiced law in New York City and Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia Law School. Uygur immigrated to the U.S. with his family at the age of eight. He is married to Wendy Lang, and they have two children. Cenk Uygur: