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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam has named a middle school civics teacher as his secretary of education.

Northam announced Thursday that Atif Qarni, who also teaches economics, history and mathematics in Prince William County, would be the administration’s top education official.

Qarni is a former Marine who fought in the Iraq war. His parents are Pakistani immigrants. He penned an op-ed in 2015 describing how leaders of the Democratic Party of Virginia tried to get him to drop out of a 2015 state Senate contest, telling him “a Muslim would never win.”