With no nomination, race turns to primary

Incumbent Rep. Phyllis Kahn will face Ilhan Omar and Mohamud Noor in a primary election for a spot on the District 60B ballot.

University of Minnesota COGS president Nicholas Goldsmith and delegates for candidate for State Representative in District 60B Ilhan Omar applaud as she enters the room following a

Joe Sulik

University of Minnesota COGS president Nicholas Goldsmith and delegates for candidate for State Representative in District 60B Ilhan Omar applaud as she enters the room following a “no endorsement” verdict during the SD60 DFL Convention in the Northeast Middle School on Saturday evening.

Kevin Beckman

After nearly eight hours of voting, none of the DFL District 60B state representative candidates vying for the party’s endorsement left the district’s nominating convention Saturday with a nod.
 
 
Political activist Ilhan Omar nearly claimed the endorsement multiple times, but 44-year incumbent Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, blocked the bid every time, forcing a primary election in August between the three candidates to determine who will be on the ballot for the November general election.  
 
 
“I really do want these next two years for very good reasons,” Kahn said. “I think [the DFL] will be back in the majority, and I want to work to get us back in the majority.” 
 
 
Kahn trailed behind Omar for every one of the five rounds of balloting by more than 20 percentage points, but Omar failed to receive the 60 percent majority needed to earn the nod, even after the maximum number of five ballots. About 250 delegates participated in the district 60B process.
 
 
Third-place candidate Mohamud Noor was forced to drop out after the second ballot when he didn’t receive the minimum 20 percent required to continue.  
 
 
Omar’s mobilization of the student vote drew large numbers of enthusiastic, younger delegates, many of who donned blue T-shirts reading “Time 4 Ilhan.” 
 
 
“This is the first time an incumbent had to block an endorsement from an opponent,” Omar said. “If this is any indication of what is to come in the primary, I’m really excited.”
 
 
Noor had previously said he was confident there would be no endorsement at the convention and that the race would be decided by a primary.  
 
 
He was also the only of the three candidates who said he would not abide by the party’s endorsement.  
 
 
“This is the beginning for all of us,” Noor said in his concession speech. “We will continue this fight, moving forward without wavering, without giving up.” 
 
 
His delegates stuck around for the rest of the night, voting not to endorse a candidate. Had they left the convention or moved to support Omar, she could have claimed the nomination. 
 
 
The final ballot showed Omar with 55 percent of the delegates, Kahn with 33 percent and a little more than 11 percent of the delegates — those who had supported Noor — opting for no endorsement. Omar would have needed just 11 more votes. 
 
 
“These are the numbers we expected,” said Phil Kelly, Kahn’s campaign manager. “Right after the caucus, these are the numbers we had, and we knew from the beginning that they were pretty much going to stay this way.” 
 
 
Tensions ran high toward the end of night, with delegates expressing exhaustion and frustration at the drawn-out process. On Twitter, others expressed frustration over the lack of a nomination. 
 
 
“I’ve been to probably twelve or thirteen conventions and … this one’s approaching the longest,” said Ryan Kennedy, a delegate from 60B. “The longer these things drag out, the more disenfranchised [people] in the process become.” 
 
 
He said first-time convention participants could be discouraged from participating in the future because of the results of Saturday’s convention. 
 
 
Others thought the delegates’ commitment to the candidates showed strong dedication.
 
 
“It was a long night,” said Larry Pogemiller, Minnesota Office of Higher Education  commissioner and District 60A delegate. “But I think you saw dedication on behalf of all three candidates … basically the vote total did not change all day long, so that’s a testament to [them].”
 
 
Kahn’s last race in 2014 resulted in a deadlocked convention when she was challenged by Noor for the first time. Kahn went on to defeat Noor in the primary that year.  
 
 
“This is the same thing that happened last time but in reverse,” Kahn said. “Noor blocked me from getting the endorsement then, and this time I had to stop Ilhan from getting it.”
 
 
The convention began at about 10 a.m., but the time dedicated to the 60B nomination didn’t start until about 4 p.m.
 
 
In other district races, incumbent Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, won the party’s endorsement over challenger Chris Meyer, and Rep. Diane Loeffler, DFL-Minneapolis, received the party’s endorsement for House District 60A.