Noor challenges U-area standby

Mohamud Noor is taking on 21-term Rep. Phyllis Kahn for the DFL spot.

Mohamud Noor, currently running for the position of State Representative in district 60B, addresses members of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority on Monday.

Cole Feagler

Mohamud Noor, currently running for the position of State Representative in district 60B, addresses members of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority on Monday.

by Roy Aker

Tuesday’s precinct caucuses mark the beginning of the 2014 election process in Minnesota. There, political parties will choose candidates to endorse and establish their respective platforms.

State representative hopeful Mohamud Noor, 36, is challenging longstanding Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, to represent District 60B, which includes parts of the University of Minnesota and surrounding neighborhoods. The two officials will garner DFL support at neighborhood precinct caucuses Tuesday.

Through he’s running a quiet campaign, Noor said he has strong support in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and other areas of Minneapolis. Noor said his community ties will help him unseat Kahn, who has been serving in the state Legislature for more than four decades.

Bridging the divide between the University and Somali communities would benefit the district in many ways, he said.

“We have a large institution,” Noor said. “Why don’t we have that institution help the district as a whole?”

Noor was elected to serve on the Minneapolis School Board in December, representing Cedar-Riverside — the district represented by Hussein Samatar before his death.

Noor also serves as the interim executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, helping to connect new immigrants with social welfare programs, housing, health care and education services. He started volunteering with the confederation in 1999 — the same year he immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya.

“It helps if you can speak their same language, but the bottom line is understanding the issues that impact that community and becoming a representative for that community,” he said.

Noor ran for a state Senate seat in 2012, losing the primary election to Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis. He said support from that election will carry over to this year’s campaign.

“That momentum that we started is still going on,” he said.

Noor’s political career began in 2002, when he was appointed by former Gov. Jesse Ventura to serve on the Council of Black Minnesotans.

Because of Noor’s strong backing from the Somali community, Kahn said his campaign is “more complicated” than her past challengers’.

In the 2012 House elections, Kahn won with nearly 79 percent of the vote.

The district’s diverse demographics across neighborhoods make this election an interesting race, Kahn said.

Ward 6 City Councilman Abdi Warsame has gained experience in the neighborhood while serving as the executive director of the Riverside Plaza Tenants Association. Though he agrees with Noor’s initiatives, Warsame said he’s supporting Kahn because of her successful track record.

“She represents our district very well,” he said.

As chair of the House’s Legacy Committee, Kahn said she’s confident her seniority will win the DFL endorsement Tuesday and lead her through the race.

Noor’s campaign

Noor, a husband and father of four children, left his full-time job as a system administrator for the Minnesota Department of Human Services last year to start his campaign. 

Lowering crime rates, advocating for workers’ rights and expanding early education programs are platforms he is running on.

If elected, Noor said he’d push building a workforce center in the district, early childhood development funding and increased security efforts on and near the University’s Minneapolis campus.

Noor said he also supports raising the state’s minimum wage, gun control and affordable tuition.

As an immigrant, achieving the “American dream” can sometimes feel challenging, he said. But if it’s successful, the campaign will hopefully extend that opportunity to more people, Noor said.

Noor said he can do more for the community by serving at the state level.

“To address all the issues,” he said, “you have to be close to where the policy is implemented.”