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Farouk Rajab of Stonington to seek Democratic nomination for 18th District state Senate seat

Stonington school board Chairman Farouk Rajab, who is the general manager of the Providence Marriott Downtown and formerly an executive with the Waterford Hotel Group, said Tuesday he plans to seek the Democratic endorsement to run for the 18th District state Senate seat, currently held by three-term Republican Heather Somers.

Rajab, 51, sent an email to supporters this week asking them to help him qualify for public campaign financing through the state's Citizens' Election Program. To qualify, he needs to receive 300 contributions ranging from $5 to $290 with a total of at least $17,300. Once he does that, he said he will release his platform.

"I promise you that every day I will be your champion. I will listen well so I can be your voice that protects your rights, and the rights of your children in Connecticut," he wrote to his supporters.

Rajab said Tuesday night that he had been considering a run for the seat ever since the 2016 election, when he said he saw the country shift into two different camps. He said he spoke to a friend who told him that if he wanted to make a difference, he should get involved and run for office. He did that, running unsuccessfully for the Board of Education in 2017, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the school board in 2018, was elected to the school board in 2019 and was elected its chairman in November. He now is overseeing the search for a new superintendent of schools.

Rajab, a native of Jordan who moved here in 1998, told his supporters that running for the seat is a "fitting way to give back to the community that took us in over twenty years ago as part of their fiber."

"This is the greatest country on Earth and Connecticut is the greatest state in the union," he said Tuesday. "We should be proud of where we live and talk about it. I want my children to be able to move back and live in Connecticut."

Rajab said he would listen to constituents and represent them and their families because "I want a better future for my children and grandchildren."

Rajab has a degree in finance and banking from the Arab College in Amman, Jordan. He and his wife, Dima, have three grown sons, Laith, Sami and Adam. Before running the Providence Marriott, he was the general manager of the Westin Minneapolis from 2015 to 2017 and before that the general manager of the Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa from 2011 to 2015. From 2005 to 2011 he was regional director of operations and general manager for the Waterford Hotel Group. From 2001 to 2005 he was the general manager for the former Best Western hotel in Mystic.

Among his many affiliations, Rajab is the immediate past chairman of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, the current vice chairman of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau, and a board member of the Providence Tourism Council.

Locally he has served the past 11 years on the board of the Stonington Community Center and has been its president, is a current member of the Mystic River Boathouse Park Committee, was chairman of the Connecticut Lodging Association from 2011 to 2015 and was a board member of the Mystic Chamber of Commerce.

No other candidates, including Somers, have yet announced their intention to run for the seat. The 18th District comprises eight towns: Groton, Stonington, North Stonington, Preston, Griswold, Voluntown, Plainfield and Sterling.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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