Chaldean community takes great pride in new state representative’s victory

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By Natasha Dado
WEST BLOOMFIELD – Klint Kesto, newly elected republican state representative for Michigan’s 39th House District made history Tuesday when he became the first Chaldean American to serve on the state legislature.

Kesto’s district represents all of Commerce Township, Wixom, the Western half of West Bloomfield Township and Wolverine Lake. Chaldeans are taking great pride in Kesto’s victory, with many describing it as a major milestone for a community that’s often misunderstood and still widely unknown outside of Michigan.

“There are a lot of misconceptions and confusion about who Chaldeans are, and I think his election is going to help clear some of that up,” said Eric Younan director of strategic initiatives for the Chaldean Community Foundation.

There are more than 120,000 Chaldeans in Michigan, but the community which has contributed immensely to the state’s economy through its entrepreneurial spirit has never had a face to represent it in state government until now.

“We have the largest concentration of Chaldeans outside the Middle East. We need representation in state government,” Younan said.

Kesto is an assistant prosecutor for Wayne County, and a graduate of Wayne State University’s Law School. He earned 53% of the vote in the Nov. 6 general election, beating his opponent Democrat Pam Jackson who garnered 46.5% of votes.

Since Kesto launched his campaign more than eight months ago, Chaldeans have rallied behind him in an effort to ensure the community has representation in Lansing. “We might see a lot more Chaldeans getting into politics,” Younan said.
Derek Dickow, an activist in the Chaldean community and the owner and founder of Steward Media has worked with Kesto’s campaign since it launched more than eight months ago.

Dickow said out of the 110 House Districts in Michigan, Kesto’s campaign was among the top five most well funded.

“We are extremely excited about making history, and we’re really confident in Klint’s ability to increase the quality of life for people in this district. People have stood behind him because of his integrity and honesty,” Dickow said.

Kesto’s victory has already started getting other Chaldeans questioning what they can do to get the community more organized.

“I’ve been getting calls from people since he was elected asking what they can do to get our community moving forward, and more visable on the state and national level,” Dickow said. 

 
Right Derek Dickow, founder and president of Steward Media stands with newly elected state representative of Michigan’s 39th House District, Klint Kesto who made history Tuesday as he became the first Chaldean to serve on the state legislature. The two are featured at the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield where Kesto’s election night gathering was held and attended by about 300 people.

Kesto’s win speaks volumes about where the next generation of Chaldean Americans is headed. More young Chaldeans are moving away from the traditional roles of entrepreneurship their parents held, and pursuing college careers.

 
Hundreds of Chaldeans expressed their excitement about Kesto’s victory on social media. One Facebook post from Vincent Shonia of San Diego read, “Congrats Klint, we’re proud of you here in San Diego. Good luck.”  San Diego has the second highest concentration of Chaldeans outside of Michigan. 
 
Another user, Larry Kassab wrote, “Congrats Klint! Very proud of you! And especially to see a Chaldean in politics!!…” 
Bruno Dabish posted, “For the first time ever for state office we have a Chaldean! A very good man that will make our community proud. This is truly a great day!” 
 
On Tuesday night nearly 300 people gathered at the Shenendoah Country Club here for an election night gathering held by Kesto’s campaign. 
 
Members of the community have made generous monetary donations to his campaign. However, Dickow notes while financial contributions are helpful, in the end votes are what will get a candidate elected. 
 
The Chaldean vote can be a powerful force in local elections,  especially if the community comes out to exercise its democratic right in large numbers.  
 
“We need to do more to make sure people in our community are registered to vote and take part in their civic duty,” Dickow said.  
 
Younan said Kesto’s election has encouraged the community to come together. 
 
“All it takes is one. We set a standard with the community,” Dickow said. 
 
While the community’s support for Kesto has helped, it isn’t what got him elected. 
 
Kesto earned endorsements from major political figures, and groups in the state including Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Oakland County Clerk Bill Bullard, Senator Mike Kowall, the Detroit News, Right to Life of Michigan, Detroit Regional Chamber and Michigan Chamber of Commerce to name a few. Kesto’s campaign also worked closely with the Jewish community.
 
Dickow attributes Kesto’s win to his hard work ethic throughout the campaign.  
 
 Kesto went around the whole district knocking on doors to personally meet with residents.  
 
“Lots of people told me, ‘I’m voting for Klint Kesto because he came and talked to me, he knocked on my door,”’ Dickow said. “We’ll have a Chaldean serving on the U.S. House of Representatives next, I give it a good 10 years.”