Lawmaker faces new challenger

Two challenger will face Rep. Phyllis Kahn in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary race for District 60B.

by Erica Mahoney

Next year’s race for Minnesota House District 60B will feature a new candidate running against longtime Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who has held the seat for the past 43 years.
Ilhan Omar, senior policy aid for Minneapolis Ward 12 City Councilman Andrew Johnson will face Kahn for the first time in the DFL primary election. Mohamud Noor, who sought the DFL nomination in last year’s election, will square off against Kahn for the second time in 2015.
The district’s boundaries were redrawn in 2012 to include a larger portion of the Somali community in Minneapolis.
“Somali communities that live in this district are not represented very well; that’s for sure,” said Abdimalik Askar, Kahn’s Republican challenger in last year’s election. “That’s why you see that the poorest people in this district are [Somali], and educationally, the lowest-performing are Somali students. If they get a good representative, it will lead
them into good schools, into good jobs and into good health — that’s very clear.”
Omar, a mother of three, said she has the energy and passion to represent the district well. 
“I believe our community needs an energetic representative with a bold vision for prosperity and equity in Minnesota,” Omar said.
She said she believes people in district feel that they haven’t been equitably represented.
“I want to make sure that we have someone who has fluency in all of our diverse communities,” she said. 
Criminal justice reform, the environment and higher education are the issues she said she would like to work on.
“As someone who is of the generation that is still struggling with student debt, we need to be focusing on how we contribute to investing more in making higher education more affordable,” Omar said.
But Kahn said she feels she has good support in the Somali community. 
“I’m not ashamed of the amount of support I have in the Somali community or the things I’ve specifically done for that community as part of my job in being a legislator,” she said.
Kahn also said that one of the things people learn in the Legislature is that they have to pick out a few issues to specialize in.
“You don’t go into the Legislature and think you’re going to do everything all at once,” she said.
And she said her scientific background also makes her a valuable asset to the state Legislature. 
Still, Askar said it’s time for new leadership in the district. Kahn and Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, are the longest serving house members in Minnesota history. 
“There has been no change in 40 years for this district,” Askar said. “The housing is the same, the jobs are the same and the world is changing.”