By Stephen Jones
Two Chaldean candidates are making runs at office in 2018. While they have different backgrounds, both share a burning desire to serve their community. Michael Shallal and Klint Kesto are running for seats on the Michigan State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, respectively. Both are running under the Republican Party.
Both Shallal and Kesto are running grassroots, door-to-door campaigns and are relying heavily on the support of their families and the community at large.
Shallal is a longtime resident of Macomb County. His family immigrated to the United States when he was 17 years old. Shallal is a small business owner who earned his bachelor’s degree in information security systems from the University of Phoenix in Troy, while working two to three jobs to put himself through school and support his family. In 2003, he became a U.S. citizen and began a full-time job with the government. This is his second attempt at office.
Shallal is a proud father of two honor roll students who attend Utica community schools, where his wife Berta teaches as para-professional. He also volunteers at his family’s church, St. George, every Sunday.
“I grew up Catholic. I’m Chaldean and very proud of my ethnic background, my heritage, my culture,” said Shallal. “I’m very fluent in Aramaic. My native tongue is Aramaic, which is the language of Jesus Christ, and then Arabic is my secondary language, which I learned in Iraq.”
In addition to being fluent in multiple dialects of Arabic and Aramaic as well as English, Shallal served as an Iraq war civilian contractor. Shallal spent more than 14 years of his professional career as a Senior Intelligence Analyst supporting many federal agencies as well as the Department of Defense. Shallal sustained battlefield injuries on multiple occasions. One injury kept him away from his son for the first three months after birth.
“I’ve completed several tours across the globe in military uniform and as a civilian,” said Shallal. “I’ve supported everything from the Defense Intelligence Agency to the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, State Department, various branches of the Department of Defense.”
Shallal’s background gives him a unique perspective on the elements of American life that he believes many people take for granted.
“God loving family is the cornerstone of every dignified community,” Shallal said. “We must teach our children to respect our flag, constitution and those who defend them. We call the U.S. the land of opportunities. It’s a dream country for anyone and everyone on the planet. I don’t care where they come from. There is a reason why people want to come here. We want to make sure that we do not lose this quality, and honestly everything we enjoy is all paid for by our troops. Our service men and women pay the price for this freedom that we enjoy. I’ve seen it firsthand. I’ve lost numerous best friends that I’ve made in uniform.”
Shallal was inspired to run by the opportunity to bring integrity back to office. He believes that there are not enough politicians that put the well-being of their constituents over the advancement of their careers. That is why Shallal’s website emphasizes that he is a career patriot and not a career politician.
“Respectful boldness is more powerful than political correctness,” said Shallal. “I don’t care if you’re a successful politician, if you’re a lousy human being then you’re no good. You can get all the support from the establishment, but if you know that when you go to sleep at night you’re doing something wrong, you’re a lousy human being.”
Kesto grew up in Michigan. Prior to completing law school at Wayne State University, he attended the University of Michigan where he received a degree in political science.
After graduating from Wayne State Law School, Kesto served as the assistant prosecutor of Wayne County for six years before being elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2012.
Because of term limits, Kesto is unable to run for re-election to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2018 and now has his sights set on the U.S. House of Representatives.
Kesto says he was motivated to run for office by the lack of Chaldean representation in government.
“I made a decision in 2012 to run,” said Kesto. “Part of it had to do with a lot of my friends leaving the state of Michigan when we had what they called the lost decade because of the recession in Michigan. The other thing is there was a never a Chaldean to be elected. There was never a Chaldean voice, somebody advocating on behalf of the people, even though we’re a large population of this state, especially in southeast Michigan.”
For Kesto, that sentiment rings true at the federal level as well. Gearing up for the congressional run in 2018, Kesto is still motivated to by the opportunity to serve as an advocate for the Chaldean community in Washington D.C.
“It’s due time now, especially with the amount that we contribute as Chaldeans to the Michigan economy of over 11 billion dollars, to have a representative from the community,” said Kesto. “It’s due time now that you get someone who’s good, who has the experience, who has the wherewithal, who’s worked in the church as a volunteer, who’s served as a prosecutor, who’s served the community as a legislator and can actually win this election.”
Both candidates are pro-life, understand the importance of family values, recognize the vital role that business owners play in the economy and are grounded in their religion.
You can find out more about each candidate’s platform at their websites: michaelshallal.com and klintkesto.com