About Ahmad Zahra’s Arkansas Marriage

Strange. It turns out, Fullerton Councilman Ahmad Zahra, who immigrated from Syria “in the late 90’s” and “always knew he was gay” according to all his inspiring bio’s, was married, in Arkansas, from 1996 to 2001, to a woman named Michelle Salmon. All of his public accounts of his life skip over this interesting episode. But why?

I’ve been sitting on this story for months, not really wanting to write about it. But I’ve been alerted that the Friends For Fullerton’s Future Blog, which is totally hostile to Zahra, was about to post these documents, and I thought I should get Ahmad’s side of things before that comes out.

I was reluctant because, despite all my problems with Zahra (starting with his support for Poseidon on the OCWD), he’s been very supportive over the years to my friends at the Rancho La Paz Senior Mobile Home Park. And many Fullerton Democrats consider him to be a sort of liberal standard-bearer against the Fullerton Council’s moderately conservative bipartisan majority of Jung, Dunlap and Whitaker.

But it’s better I write this story than the guys at FFFF. What does Ahmad have to say about this 1996-2001 marriage, and why has he never mentioned it?


“Yeah, that happened,” confirmed Ahmad after a moment. “Why would anyone care about that?”

“Well, it’s just that there are all these inspiring profiles written about you, in publications all over the world, and they all make it sound like you went right from Damascus to Ellis Island to Hollywood to study filmmaking. ‘In the late 90’s,’ they all say. And some of them mention that you always knew you were gay. Out of curiosity, why did you decide to go to Arkansas of all places?”

“I got to this country and I didn’t know anybody, but my father had a friend in Little Rock, so that’s where I went first. I met Michelle, and we liked each other and thought we could work things out, but it didn’t work out. She was even going to go to LA with me but she decided to stay with her family.”

Okay, well, the suspicion arises that this was a marriage to get citizenship, which is illegal under the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments Act of 1986. But Ahmad tells us he didn’t become a citizen until long after their 2001 divorce, in 2008. “Coming out as gay is not easy or simple. If these FFFF people want to make fun of my coming out story, well, good luck to them.”

He claims the FFFF blog is “Islamophobic,” “homophobic,” and racist against Latinos as well. I can’t vouch for that. “Why do people need to know every detail of my life? Do you know the whole life story of Oscar Valades?” (Who? That’s the guy who ran against him two years ago.)

“What about [his council nemesis] Fred Jung? Do you know how he makes a living? How has he gotten three upgraded Porsches while on Council? You should really be looking into the relationship he’s having with [Irvine Councilwoman] Tammy Kim – and they’re both on the OC Power Authority!” (And another board or two he named off.) “Now THAT is a real conflict, that affects people!”

I’d always suspected it was Ahmad who sent me an anonymous e-mail last year, back when I was writing about the OCPA’s growing problems. From the proton address “714949911” (get it? emergency regarding north county and Irvine!) it claimed “Everyone knows” that Fred and Tammy are an item, and that therefore all their votes on OCPA are somehow compromised. I wasn’t sure if that was true and didn’t care to find out, as I didn’t see how it would create any conflict. Plus I knew that Tammy didn’t even want to be on the OCPA Board, she wanted Larry Agran there but he refused, so she just stepped into the void, and she has done a fine job turning the Board around and so has Fred. The person who sent me the e-mail refused to identify themselves, but everyone I showed it to said “That’s Ahmad Zahra.”

I won’t go on with the feud between Ahmad and Fred’s majority, but I gotta tell my liberal friends it has NOTHING to do with Ahmad being Muslim or gay, and everything to do with things Ahmad has done and said in closed session that could not be overlooked. Meanwhile… we do appreciate some of the good things Ahmad Zahra has done, and now his public story is a little more complete.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.