Michael Zalewski

As the campaign hits the final stretch before the June 28 primary, state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside), who has been repeatedly attacked by opponent Abdelnasser Rashid throughout the campaign for his vote against repealing a parental notice requirement for minors seeking abortions, hit back with a campaign mailer stating Rashid has accepted campaign donations from donors who back Republicans who oppose abortion rights. Rashid is crying foul saying that the mailer is distorted and inaccurate.

“Abdelnasser Rashid has been backed by a prominent Republican fundraiser who once spoke at the Republican National Convention and who has donated $35,000 to Republican politicians, including candidates who oppose civil rights and a woman’s right to choose,” the mailer states.

Rashid is crying foul, saying that the mailer is distorted and inaccurate.

The “prominent Republican fundraiser” the mailer refers to, but does not name, is Talat Othman, an 86-year-old Palestinian American businessman from Chicago who was the founding president of the Arab-American Business and Professional Association.

Othman, who has been contributing to political campaigns at least since the 1980s, contributed $250 to Rashid’s campaign for county board in 2018 and another $250 to his campaign for the Board of Review in 2020. 

Abdelnasser Rashid

Othman told the Landmark in a telephone that he has also contributed a total of $1,250 to Rashid’s current campaign, including a recent $1,000 donation at a fundraiser. That donation is not yet reflected on the State Board of Elections website although donations of $1,000 or more are supposed to be reported immediately.

 In 2000, Othman gave an opening prayer at the Republican National Convention and the year before contributed $1,000 to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. He has also contributed in the past to the presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush and a number of other Republicans, including former Illinois Senator Peter Fitzgerald, a strongly pro-life Republican, and to the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

But Othman also has a long history of contributing to Democrats and has mostly contributed to Democrats for nearly the past 20 years, including to the campaigns of former President Barack Obama, Sen. Dick Durbin, and congressional representatives Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Sean Casten, Marie Newman and a host of other Democrats.  

Othman told the Landmark that he grew up in a Republican household and used to be a Republican, but that changed about 20 years ago. 

“I did switch from being a Republican to a Democrat, because the Republican Party over the last 20 some years has pulled to the right so far that they’re over the cliff now,” Othman said.

Othman said he donated to Fitzgerald largely because he was friendly with Fitzgerald’s father, whom he knew from banking circles.

Rashid said that the Zalewski mailer was dishonest.

“Representative Zalewski is lying and he knows it,” Rashid said. “Representative Zalewski is trying to distract from his vote to take away a young woman’s right to reproductive freedom. He’s trying to distract from the $130,000 in legal fees that he refuses to explain. And he’s trying to distract his championing an increase in the gas tax just this year while people suffer.”

Zalewski said he stands by the mailer. 

“The attack is that Abdelnasser Rashid chose to accept a contribution from the gentleman who also contributed to Senator Peter Fitzgerald who doesn’t believe in the rape and incest exception,” Zalewski said. “Regardless of this gentleman’s donor history, regardless of whom else he donated to, it was Abdelnasser Rashid’s conscious choice that this was a guy whose contribution was worth accepting.” 

Zalewski, who has spent most of the campaign defending his record against Rashid’s constant attacks, was in no mood for a lecture from his opponent about the accuracy of direct mail pieces. 

“When I see the negative, atrocious mail that has been sent on his campaign’s behalf when he calls himself a reformer and someone who looks to be aspirational when it comes to politics for him to critique another campaign’s negative criticism of him just shows the blatant hypocrisy of Naz Rashid,” Zalewski said.