Ilhan Omar won a Democratic-Farmer-Laborer primary Tuesday against longtime state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, and as a heavy favorite to win in November, could make history by becoming the first Somali-American lawmaker in Minnesota — and maybe in U.S. — history.
Omar is 33, a mother of three and works as the Director of Policy Initiatives at Women Organizing Women Network, where she works to “empower women, specifically first– and second-generation immigrants, regardless of political affiliation, to become engaged citizens and community leaders,” the organization states.
Omar defeated a 44-year veteran of the Minnesota House of Representatives and is gaining national recognition for her feat.
Here’s what you need to know about Omar:
1. Omar Is the First Somali-American to Win a Seat in Minnesota, Maybe in the U.S.
Before moving to Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in 1997, Omar and her family lived in Somalia and then fled to a refugee camp in Kenya, her bio states. At 14, she began interpreting Democratic caucuses for her grandfather, sparking an interest in politics.
Now she’s the first elected Somali-American to a legislative seat in Minnesota — and possibly in the U.S. At the very least, it’s likely she’s the first Muslim, east African female to hold elected office, according to the Guardian.
“All of these identities that I carry are going to be an obstacle,” Omar told the Guardian. “I wear a hijab and that’s going to be a problem, but once one person is able to do that, it then allows other people to dream too.”
2. Omar Will Face Another Somali-American, a Republican, in the General Election in November
Omar will go toe-to-toe in November with another Somali-American immigrant for her legislative seat. The first Republican-endorsed Somali-American, Abdimalik Askar, will try to defeat Omar in a heavy-Democratic neighborhood of Minneapolis. Kahn, who held the seat since 1972, has won with as much as 77 percent of the vote there.
While Omar is expected to win, Askar, who ran for Somalia’s presidency, said he “will work to find constructive solutions to the education, health care, environmental and employment challenges facing our communities.”
3. Omar’s Positions Are Progressive & Address Minorities’ Concerns, Police Shootings
In a recent Democratic debate with Omar, Kahn and Mohamud Noor, the discussion turned to police shootings.
“What I’m also going to push for is an independent prosecutor to be involved when we have police shootings and I’m also going to propose a ban on grand juries,” Omar said, according to KARE11.
Her campaign website adds: “Another step is to ban stops for vehicle violations, such as expired license plate tags, broken taillights and cracked windshields. Instead, we should institute a policy where police car dash cams be used to assign tickets objectively. If such a law were in place, Philando Castile would still be alive.”
Other positions of Omar’s platform included criminal justice reform, protecting the environment, advancing “equity for all,” and building an economy for all, which includes mandated paid sick leave and a $15 per hour minimum wage.
Her Twitter profile states she is an “Intersectional feminist, mom, part-time social justice crusader, full-time political junkie…”
4. Omar Was Attacked During a 2014 Democrat Caucus That Left Her With a Concussion
A 2014 caucus left Omar with a concussion after she was attacked by a group of people, she told Fusion. The MinnPost reported then that the caucus turned violent after emotions flared over two primary candidates — Kahn and Noor — and she tried to enforce caucus voting rules.
She told Fusion in March:
And so I started sobbing and I knew that no matter how much pain I was in and that fact that I suffered a concussion and could barely remember my name that I needed to go to work the next day — for the people who were involved in this process, who worked with me at city hall. I was very adamant that I went to work and I sat in the committees and made sure that they saw me and that they knew that they couldn’t silence me, and that I was stronger than they think I am.
5. A Website Says Omar is Married to 2 Men, Including Her Brother
Questions have been raised by a blog, Powerline, citing a Somali source, that Omar is legally married to her brother. The Omar campaign denies the candidate is married to her brother, according to the Star Tribune.
Ahmed Hirsi is pictured in campaign literature with Omar; the Star Tribune reports Omar is legally married to Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, which Powerline claims is Omar’s brother.
The campaign, instead, said the claims are “Trump-style misogyny, racism, anti-immigration rhetoric and Islamophobic division.”