Rep. Ilhan Omar launches re-election bid ahead of second legislative session

Omar held a re-election campaign kick-off at the African Development Center in Cedar-Riverside on Saturday.

State Rep. Ilhan Omar talks with attendees before speaking at her campaign kickoff. 

Easton Green

State Rep. Ilhan Omar talks with attendees before speaking at her campaign kickoff. 

by Michael Achterling

Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, launched her re-election campaign Tuesday among supporters at the African Development Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

The event marked the start of Omar’s re-election bid for House district 60B, which covers the University of Minnesota, Cedar-Riverside and surrounding neighborhoods. As Omar’s second legislative session approaches, she hopes to address local infrastructure needs, student housing issues and more.

“I’m really excited. It’s been an interesting year, full of ups and downs and some surprises,” Omar said. “It’s also been a really productive year for me, and a really prosperous year for our district.”

Omar became the first Somali-American lawmaker elected to U.S. public office in November 2016, a feat that drew attention from national media. She was appointed assistant minority leader in the House as a freshman legislator, where she worked to address student issues and equity.

Dozens of supporters, including local political figures like Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Rep. Raymond Dehn and Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, attended the re-election event.

“She has already passed a number of amendments and bills … we are going to need her as a partner over there in the Legislature,” Frey said.

Frey said he and Omar recently met to discuss affordable housing issues in Minneapolis.  

Omar said she will work with an affordable housing task force to incorporate recommendations into future state policy. 

“Last session, we had some successes. We got $77 million to go towards affordable housing and $10 million to rehab our current public housing stock,” she said.

Student renter issues are among Omar’s main objectives in her second legislative session. 

Omar said she wants to focus on passing the Student Renters Rights Act with Dziedzic when the session starts in February.

Dziedzic said the bill would protect students from predatory landlords who violate lease agreements. Omar and Dziedzic worked with the Minnesota Student Association to write the policy.  

The two lawmakers learned of the issue through their discussions with University students, some of whom were evicted early from off-campus housing units. 

“You can’t kick people out early without cause,” Dziedzic said. “The bill will look at, and basically say, ‘you can’t do that.’”

As Omar’s re-election campaign progresses, she said she will continue to focus on increasing voter turnout in her district, specifically among young voters.

“We’re really going to be focusing on doing a lot of turnout work and getting as many people activated as possible,” said Sonia Neculescu, Omar’s campaign manager.

Neculescu led in-district outreach for Omar over the last year as her district director.

“The main point is that we all need to come together to continually strengthen these coalitions and really turnout so we can win really big in 2018,” she said. “There is a lot at stake.”