Election 2020

Minneapolis Elects First Somali-American Legislator

Somali activist Ilhan Omar is greeted by supporters in Minneapolis on Aug. 9, 2016. (Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune via AP, File)

A Minnesota woman was elected to that statehouse Tuesday as the first Somali-American legislator in the United States.

Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis — a policy analyst who most recently served as the director of policy initiatives at Women Organizing Women, which encourages women’s civic leadership in East Africa — essentially ran unopposed after the GOP candidate for the District 60B seat suspended his campaign.

Omar’s family escaped the Somali Civil War when she was 8 years old, and they spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before immigrating to the United States.

“Tonight is the culmination of more than a year of hard work. I am so proud of this win because District 60B represents Minnesota at its finest. My neighbors, and everyone here in this room, represent what we as a nation want to be: united in our diversity,” she said upon her victory Tuesday. “Longtime residents, East African immigrants and students — we came together and engaged in the political progress. We talked about the issues that concern us and we connected on the future we want to create.”

The candidate vowed “to build a more prosperous and equitable district — state, and nation — where each and every one of us has opportunities to thrive and move forward together.”

Omar’s campaign said her operation included 400 volunteers on the ground and 900 donors.

The new Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party lawmaker said her top issues would be economic inequality, social justice and the environment.