2023 Democrats Abroad Europe, Middle East, & Africa Regional Vice Chair Candidate Statements

Please find below the candidate statements and photos submitted by 2023 candidates for Regional Vice Chair for Europe, Middle East, & Africa. They are in alphabetical order by last name and include photos if submitted. Candidate statements have not been edited (except for length).

Montassar Adouni

Kiersten Byrd

Marshall Dix

Wende S. Elliott-Rose

Benjamin Hunter

Robert E. Jones

Duncan E. Lawrence

Rhea Leman

Jennifer Rakow-Stepper


Question # Text of the Question Max. Word Count
1. Please give us a brief biography. 150
2. Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution. 200
3. Why are you running for this office? 150


Important links:



Montassar Adouni (Tunisia)

Please give us a brief biography. 
I was born in Biloxi, Harrison County, Mississippi, which is historically Republican, but raised as a Democrat. I am a History, Archeology, and Heritage Science student at the Faculty of Literature, Arts, and Humanities in Manouba, Tunisia, and I am also working for a Tunisian start-up. I am a dual citizen of America and Tunisia and live in Ariana. As the son of an Air Force veteran, I grew up with a sense of purpose to serve my community and work for the good of the people. I help organize campaigns to advance the SDGs for the United Nations, tackle climate change and pollution, and have a strong commitment to public service. I also have a multicultural background, as I speak five languages common throughout the Mediterranean. Finally, I hold a National Student Entrepreneur status from the Tunisian government for ambitious and promising young talents.  
Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution.
As a previous member of the Democrats abroad in the UK and an active member of the Democrats abroad living in Tunisia, I want to expand my conscription in this position and have a broader impact on Americans abroad. By myself and individually, I organized a small campaign to urge Americans in my community and living in Tunisia to vote for the two previous presidential elections, to convince them to vote for the Democrats, and to share with them the Democratic Party's beliefs. Also, I’m a member of the Democrats abroad environmental and climate change committee and a US Democratic Party social ambassador.
Why are you running for this office? 
My motives for running for office, as an American-born North African, are pushing for progressive policies, fostering democratic values including social justice, equality, and inclusion, especially for underrepresented groups, and working for the greater good of Americans abroad in the EMEA region. In addition to the above, I find urgency in addressing climate change issues, sharing plans towards renewable energy sources, and combating the effects of global warming with the inclusion of Americans in Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. If elected, I will continue DA's mission of outreach to and advocacy for Americans abroad.

Candidate Endorsements



Kiersten Byrd (Spain)

Please give us a brief biography. 
My name is Kiersten Byrd, and I am a passionate individual who has dedicated my career to using technology for social and political change. I graduated from Howard University and worked as a Field Organizer for the Florida Democratic Party before moving to Madrid, Spain, where I have lived for the past five years. Despite living abroad, I remain committed to my work in the political tech space, working with progressive organizations to use technology to advance democracy and social change.

In addition to my professional work, I have taken the time to connect with my community abroad and foster my passion for music I am an active member of The Gospel Factory Ensemble in Madrid, where I showcase my love for music and my commitment to making a positive impact on my community. I believe that technology has the power to empower individuals and communities, and I am committed [truncated].
Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution.
I have been a member of Democrats Abroad since 2020. Due to the demands of my work, I haven't had the opportunity to be as involved with outside organizations as I would have liked. However, I am now well-positioned to pursue my passions, and I am excited to channel that energy toward making a meaningful contribution to Democrats Abroad. I am committed to utilizing my skills and expertise to support the organization's mission in any way I can. I have previous experience with political campaigns and activism, and I believe that my skills in technology could be particularly valuable to Democrats Abroad. I am enthusiastic about the prospect of working with the organization and making a positive impact on its goals.
Why are you running for this office? 
I am running for Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad because I am passionate about increasing engagement and bringing a fresh perspective to the organization. As a Black millennial woman who represents an ever-diverse demographic of ex-pats, I understand the importance of having representation in these spaces to ensure that the voices and perspectives of all members of our community are heard and reflected in this wonderful organization. I am committed to using my skills, expertise, and personal experiences to advocate for policies and initiatives that bolster the beautifully diverse perspectives in the Democratic Party, both at home and abroad. As Vice Chair, I will work to increase engagement and mobilize voters through innovative and technology-driven approaches. I believe that my unique background and perspective make me well-suited to bring a fresh perspective to the organization.

Candidate Endorsements



Marshall Dix (Switzerland)

Please give us a brief biography. 
I was raised in California and received my B.S degree in Management Science at the California State University at Los Angeles and my M.S. degree at Oregon state University, Corvallis, Oregon. I worked several years in local government in Eugene, Oregon before being accepted to the World Health Organization where I worked in I.T. for 3 years. Subsequently, I worked in banking and telecommunications as a management analyst with my last job being in Geneva a HSBC private bank in the same capacity. I retired in 2010 and currently live in Switzerland. I have been married 44 years, have 2 children and 3 grandchildren.
Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution.
I have only worked with Democrats Abroad in a minor capacity contacting registered voters in Europe to be sure they voted and help with any voting questions they may have had.
Why are you running for this office? 
Representative Democracy in America is at its greatest risk since the 1930’s when Father Concklin and Charles Lindenbourg, among others, were actively supporting Fascism, antisemitism, and trying to keep America neutral during WWII.Today we see Far Right homophobic, gun crazy psychopaths ready to overturn elections they don’t like, ban books they don’t like, restrict voting, accept morally challenged Supreme Court justices, give tax breaks to the rich and ignore the poor. America is sick if half the population thinks Trump won the election. Democracy is not guaranteed, it needs to be nurtured and guarded and ready to fight for. There will always be autocrats willing to subvert the masses for their own personal gain. We cannot allow this to happen

Candidate Endorsements


Wende S. Elliott-Rose (United Kingdom) - Wende has withdrawn her candidacy effective June 9, 2023.

Please give us a brief biography. 

I was born on a U.S. Army base in Augsburg, Germany to working class Midwesterners who used the GI bill to attend university. I am a Princeton-trained cultural anthropologist able to represent Americans in Africa, Mid-East and Europe.  I have worked and lived in Italy, England, Greece, India, and Japan. I can empathize with Americans from all backgrounds and I have lived and worked in large urban areas like NYC,  Metro Detroit and Oakland, California. I also know rural concerns and the West, having been an organic farmer in Iowa where I founded a farmer cooperative and a Fair Trade brand of food and won leadership awards in agriculture.  I know the South through having relatives in Florida, Arizona, Texas and Colorado.

I am a Democrat devoted to civic volunteerism and the democratic process.  I have given lifetime dedication to social justice, environmentalism and smart development issues professionally and as a volunteer.

Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution.

I have experience representing organizations globally and am experienced as a public speaker at international conferences and as a university guest lecturer and instructor. I have experience serving at the board level in not-for-profit, government and corporate sectors. I have received project management training as management consultant for Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. I have been elected to a government position in the past, serving as the volunteer Township Trustee in Iowa (unpaid, non-partisan).

I am serving on a national panel concerned with Social Housing (welfare benefits paid housing) in the U.K where I provide oversight and advocate on behalf of social housing tenants. I volunteered for this position because I am concerned about safety, standards of living, and land use/development issues in my community and nation where I have had dual citizenship for 12 years. 

Currently I also work as a grant writer and fundraiser.  I was part of the team at Paper Crane fundraising consultancy that raised money for a Flint, Michigan neighborhood that was affected by the lead contamination. I am currently helping a program at Chautauqua Institute in New York raise money to fund scholarships for low income young adults to attend.

Why are you running for this office? 

It is such an important time for all Americans to vote and be involved in the democratic discourse. I recognize how it is more difficult to continue to vote and know all the issues when overseas and I would like to help people stay informed and involved. As an expat, I have encouraged Americans to vote whilst living overseas. I try to stimulate conversations about policy and current issues when I encounter Americans abroad and encourage them to continue to vote.

Currently I have time to volunteer so would like to give some of time to Democrats Abroad. I believe it is my moral obligation and life opportunity to be a positive member of every community where I find myself and try to make it a better place from my contributions.

Candidate Endorsements


Benjamin Hunter (Spain)

Please give us a brief biography. 
Hi! I'm Ben, an education leader currently sharing my time between Paris and Barcelona, accumulating 15 years in those locations. With a M.Ed. and nearing completion of an MBA, I have held various roles in education leadership, including Head of School at an international school in Paris.
Deeply committed to promoting democratic values and driving positive societal change, I specialize in consulting with international schools, focusing on culture transformation, managerial transitions, and harnessing the potential of EdTech. By integrating technology and implementing effective management strategies, I consistently strive to enhance educational outcomes and experiences.
Having spent the majority of my life in Europe and extensively exploring the EMEA region, I bring a genuine passion for shaping a better future. With a strong focus on empowering younger generations and an unwavering dedication to social progress, I am poised to make a valuable and meaningful contribution to this dynamic community.
Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution.
While I haven't had the opportunity to be actively involved with Democrats Abroad thus far, I am genuinely excited to become part of the organization and contribute to its mission. I understand that prior involvement may be valued, but I firmly believe that passion, dedication, and a fresh perspective can make a significant impact.
Drawing from my experience in shaping young generations through education, I feel well-equipped to engage and inspire Americans living in the EMEA region to actively participate in the democratic process. Although I may not have a history with Democrats Abroad, I am eager to bring my skills and enthusiasm to the table.
With humility and a deep desire to contribute, I am ready to work alongside fellow Democrats to drive voter turnout, promote democratic values, and amplify the voices of Americans abroad. I truly believe that together, we can make a positive difference and create a more inclusive and representative democracy.
Why are you running for this office? 
I am running for this office with a deep sense of concern for the state of democracy in the US and the need to address the challenges we face as a nation. As a relatively young candidate in the political landscape, I recognize the importance of bringing fresh perspectives and energizing voter participation.

As a European-American, I understand the needs of Americans abroad. I believe it is crucial to empower and amplify their voices to foster a more inclusive and representative democracy.

By mobilizing Americans living abroad and engaging with their specific needs and aspirations, we can build a stronger and more diverse community of voters. I am dedicated to implementing strategies that encourage voter registration, provide accessible information, and inspire civic engagement.

We can work towards a future where every American, regardless of their geographical location, has the opportunity to actively participate in shaping our democracy.

Candidate Endorsements



Robert E. Jones (Netherlands)

Please give us a brief biography. 


My name is Robert Jones, and I was raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I remain a voter. My wife and I recently moved to the Netherlands, where I serve as Vice President for Global Public Affairs for a Dutch cellular agriculture company called Mosa Meat, as well as President of Cellular Agriculture Europe, an industry trade association.

For 20+ years, I worked professionally in progressive and Democratic politics from the local to presidential levels, before pursuing my dream of becoming a classically trained chef at the Culinary Institute of America and a James Beard Foundation chef advocate.

Over the years, I obtained my Masters degrees in Political Management from The George Washington University and a second in Social Business & Entrepreneurship from the London School of Economics.

A champion of progressive values, my experience lies specifically with leading organizations that protect women’s reproductive freedoms and that combat climate change.

Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution.
We joined Democrats Abroad as soon as we moved to Holland. My greatest contributions to Democrats Abroad are yet to come, but I have more than two decades’ fighting for Democratic values stateside.

From women’s reproductive freedom to criminal justice reform, fair redistricting, and combating climate change – I am battle-tested against the GOP. My service includes time as senior staff at the Texas Democratic Caucus, EMILY’s List, Annie’s List (TX), Environmental Defense Fund, and now in a high-profile position in the private sector working to reform the global food system.

Even as my career evolved from political campaigns to government affairs to social entrepreneurship, I’ve remained active in Democratic politics. I was recently a bundler for the Biden-Harris campaign, the Presidential Transition Fund, and was honored to be appointed to advise the Secretary of Commerce on natural resources issues.

I intend to bring the full extent of my experience - in grassroots organizing, political campaigning, strategic communications and media relations, volunteer management, coalition building, and policy development - to bear in service to Democrats Abroad.
Why are you running for this office? 
While President Biden’s tenure has given us some temporary relief from the daily barrage of extremism, our country and the core of democracy remain in peril. I spent the bulk of my career on the front lines working 70+ hours a week on Democratic campaigns and in the halls of government lobbying for our shared values.

Today, what I have to offer has changed with experience, age, and physical location. However, I still want to do my part to hold our ground and empower the next generations to keep us moving forward. If the majority of voters approve, I will put forth the broad diversity of my experience to help advance the goals of Democrats Abroad and to especially make sure our collective voices are heard loud and clear at home - both at the ballot box and in the halls of power.

Candidate Endorsements



Duncan E. Lawrence (United Kingdom) - Duncan has withdrawn his candidacy effective June 6, 2023.

Please give us a brief biography. 

My father was in the Airforce and we traveled quite a bit. In the mid and late sixties I grew up in Newark New Jersey and then we moved to Anchorage Alaska in the summer of 1967.

I graduated from East Anchorage High School and went to college in California and Washington state.

I went to graduate school in Connecticut and graduated in 1984.

My main interests during this period were social sciences, human equality issues, music and sport(primarily basketball and football).

I relocated to the UK and my work had me across the EU in areas such as equalities, management and leadership, criminal justice, training and music.

I am a writer and have training materials, articles, and chapters and in the areas of youth justice, black offenders, diversity and inclusion, managing stressful situations, etc..

My current interests include supporting local community theatres , music composition and performance and supporting young [truncated].
Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution.
I did not intentionally start trying to ‘talk at’ others about the USA and democracy, but when I came to EU and Caribbean in the mid 80s when there was a lot of social strife and several countries were either looking to the states as a leader or as contradiction.

In my social sciences and community based worked I had several local and national Democratic leaders to draw upon as examples to use in my work and drive my writings and training and development work such as Clinton, Obama, Carter, King etc…their philosophy and passion for human equality and self determination were very consistent within all areas of my professional work and personal beliefs.

The roots of my greatest contributions have been described above(in the previous section) and were specially being able to develop written content ( some of which is still in use today) with these values integrated for use in working and supporting young people with special needs, youth justice, work with black offenders, areas of diversity, inclusion and equality.
Why are you running for this office? 
I know this phrase is often used quite a bit while not really meaning much at all, but with me I genuinely and humbly feel that I have a lot to give back not just as a Democrat( e.g. as a mentor , in terms of providing relevant content, creating training materials, support, etc) , but also as a professional person, with regard to respectful and flexible communication skills, team participation , and in terms of my ‘lived additional skills and insights and experiences’ gained from working and living in the USA , the integration of my personal and professional lived experiences from living and working within the EU and my real passion for trying to stay relevant within democratic values and principles in our ever changing world. I am a hard working friendly team player, one that is self-motivated, and can respectfully work with and though any challenging issues [truncated].

Candidate Endorsements



Rhea Leman (Denmark) - Rhea has withdrawn her candidacy effective May 31, 2023.

Please give us a brief biography. 
Growing up in New York City during the 1960s with parents that passionately focused on politics, I quickly joined the rally, and since, my interest hasn’t faded. My career in dance and theater began in NYC and continued when I moved to Denmark in 1981 after meeting my Danish husband, Hans Kragh-Jacobsen, at Kennedy Airport. We married two and a half weeks later at the Brooklyn Supreme Courthouse. Since moving to Denmark, my work in theater and television has included: running my own theater company (1982-96), writing and directing at Danish television and radio (1997-2003), being appointed by the Danish Cultural Minister as Chairperson to the Danish State Theater Council and a member of the Danish Arts Committee (2003-2007), and Artistic Director of Dramafronten - a network of professional playwrights, directors and actors (2009-2023).
Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution.
I served as Vice Chair for Democrats Abroad from 2007-2009. It was an exciting time. The prime focus was to get out the vote and elect Barak Obama as our next President. And we did it. Besides contacting the American voters in Denmark, I worked on communicating the importance of this election to the Danish people via newspaper and television interviews. One of the most rewarding events that Democrats Abroad Denmark hosted was election night 2008 at the Danish newspaper POLITIKEN, where a very large group of voters and Danes partied together, and renowned Danish politicians took the stage, including the future Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning- Schmidt. Tears of joy filled the room when the election results finally arrived at 5 a.m. Americans, as well as Danes, rejoiced. Aretha Franklin sang RESPECT on the p.a. system, and this was a moment I’d never forget.
Why are you running for this office? 
In a year and a half, we’ll elect the next President of the U.S.A. This election is more than important, it’s crucial, and we, the Democrats, must win. Every vote counts. We can’t waste any time. I want to join the effort by bringing my life experience and my passion for politics in order to get out the vote and accomplish the goal.

Candidate Endorsements



Jennifer Rakow-Stepper (Austria)

Please give us a brief biography. 
Born in Northern California in the early 60’s to a politically active mother, I was sticking stamps on mailers at a young age—for Republicans. In college, my activism and politics aligned—attending demonstrations and helping Robbie Conal glue his political posters on LA’s streets.

I graduated from UCLA (BA Design) in 1983 and worked in graphics at the LA Weekly and as the Art Director for Spectacle Magazine. While pursuing my Masters degree in Architecture, I worked in both Frank Gehry’s and Richard Meier’s offices and graduated from SCIArc with highest honors in 1989. Afterwards I was employed with Eric Owen Moss and then Coop Himmelblau, which brought us to Vienna, Austria in 1994.

Our children grew up as German/American citizens in Austria, where I have lived for almost 30 years and had the pleasure of serving as Chair from 2017-2021. I’ve been a member of Democrats Abroad since 2007.
Describe your work with Democrats Abroad and cite your greatest contribution.
During my tenure as EMEA’s RVC (2021-2023), I have volunteered more than 40 hours/week with leadership advice and support, volunteer development in Non CC’s, meetings, policy and budget reviews, document guidelines for Non-CC development, gotv and much more.

As DA Austria Chair, I focussed my efforts on both structural and functional changes, building a back bench of leaders with both diversity and skill-sets while setting top engagement numbers globally. During my tenure, Austria was registered as a recognised non-profit, established clear procedures for using the resource, and advised other CC’s on implementation. We revised AT’s Bylaws which have since been used as a model for new CCs. Finally, I worked to increase the number of sustaining donors to cover our expenses and ensure financial stability for our projects.

I’m running again for RVC because I believe ALL these things are my greatest contributions to DA. But my unexpected top contribution was as a fresh super volunteer in 2016 and the 300 person fundraiser I organized which raised $2400 for global—it was a blast!
Why are you running for this office? 
Growing up in Northern California in a household where politics was a regular side dish and both Republicans and Democrats were at the table, I learned from an early age the power and importance of both political engagement and diplomacy.

Serving this past term as the Regional Vice Chair for EMEA and previously as DA Austria’s Chair has made me appreciate even more the power of what individuals working together towards a shared goal can accomplish.

I’m running for a second term as RVC because I know that DA is vital in turning out the vote and is worth my time and effort. I care deeply about developing networks in under tapped areas and want to move forward with what's been started.

I’ve been called pragmatic, solutions oriented, and recently compared to a work horse. All reasons I hope you will vote for me as your next Regional Vice Chair!

Candidate Endorsements