Kahn, Noor make last-minute pitches to voters

Both state House candidates spent Monday afternoon knocking on residents' doors before Tuesday’s primary election.

Kia Farhang

 

Hours before the polls open for Tuesday’s primary election, the two leading candidates vying to represent the University of Minnesota’s area at the Capitol are making their final cases to voters.

Long-time incumbent Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, is facing a strong challenger, Somali-born Mohamud Noor, who is a city school board member with support from many elected officials, including former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Both candidates hope to maximize turnout in the primary election, because it will likely decide the fate of the spot to represent House District 60B in the state Legislature. The district has voted DFL for more than 40 years and generally leans left.

Candidates for state governor, U.S. senator, state auditor and other elected official positions are also on tap for Tuesday’s primary election.

The Minnesota Daily shadowed both candidates as they talked to residents in University neighborhoods on Monday afternoon in the final campaigning hours before polls open Tuesday morning.

 

The incumbent

With 42 years at the Capitol under Kahn’s belt, she’s working to convince voters she still the right person for the job.

After eating lunch with potential voters at a Korean community center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, Kahn returned to her campaign headquarters to decide which area in the district would be the best to visit.

She settled on a section of Prospect Park near the intersection of East River Road Parkway and Franklin Avenue. She hopped in her orange hybrid Prius and made the trip.

Kahn said she had canvassed the area before, adding that voters in the area generally support her.

Volunteers already completed a door-to-door sweep of the entire district, said Colie Colburn, a Kahn campaign manager, and they’re currently working on a second pass.

Colburn said about 60 people volunteered to help Kahn’s campaign over the weekend, which she said was more than managers expected.

Despite Kahn’s lengthy career in the state Legislature, she said there’s more work for her left to do, like passing a bill to fight products that are toxic to children.

Kahn holds a master’s in public administration from Harvard University.

Legalizing industrial hemp is also a priority for Kahn. Fifteen other states have already approved regulated production of the plant, which is a cousin of marijuana.

Kahn explained the details of the issue as she trod from door to door, greeting the occasional resident.

If there was no answer from residents when she knocked, she left a flyer behind, sometimes leaving dogs barking in the background.

Throughout her years of campaigning, Kahn said she’s “only been bitten once” by a dog — it was a small one, she said.

 

The challenger

Noor and a campaign staffer spent a few hours in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood on Monday afternoon, knocking on doors and trying to stay oriented in the process.

Though he lost his way in the mazelike area a few times, Noor seemed to know the residents. He wasn’t afraid to buck his list of undecided voters when he knew someone had moved or suspected they wouldn’t be home.

Monday’s outing was a final chance for Noor to make his pitch to voters. He said he probably won’t get much sleep before Tuesday’s primary election, which he expects will be more hectic.

“Tomorrow is just grab [voters] and go,” he said. “It’s not about campaigning. It’s just about getting people to vote.”

Noor’s campaign is banking on voters who wouldn’t normally participate in a primary election to take to the polls on Tuesday, like students and people from the Somali community.

Staff member Maria Dewees said those residents are more likely to choose him over Kahn.

Noor’s supporters, including many Somalis, flooded a precinct caucus at Coffman Union in February, bolstering his presence at the DFL convention in the spring.

Dressed in blue jeans, sneakers and a button-down shirt, the soft-spoken candidate cut an unassuming figure as he spoke to neighborhood residents on Monday. But he’s been quietly building his resume for years.

After emigrating from Kenya in 1999, Noor started volunteering with the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, a nonprofit based in Cedar-Riverside. He’s now the interim executive director there.

Former Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed him to the Council on Black Minnesotans in 2002. Last year, the man representing the Cedar-Riverside area on the Minneapolis School Board died, and Noor was elected to replace him.

“Everything I do, I get sucked into the process,” he said.

That’s why Noor said his work won’t end even if he loses on Tuesday. He said he still plans to advocate for the issues he’s running on, like making preschool universally accessible and lowering college tuition.

Noor said he’s still paying off his student loan debt from his time at Metropolitan State University, where he earned a degree in computer science.

He said he thinks the University’s undergraduate in-state tuition freeze is a step in the right direction, but he’d like to work with students and lawmakers to permanently lower the cost of higher education.

“My focus is to make sure we engage students,” Noor said.

If elected, Noor said he’d hire a student liaison to connect his office with the community.

As he talked to the few voters who were home on Monday afternoon, Noor gently reminded them of Tuesday’s primary election and asked if he could count on their votes.

“People have made their decisions [at this point],” he said. “They’re ready.”