U.S. House, 5th District
Set to make history, Ilhan Omar works to boost 5th District vote
From the Minneapolis Labor Review, September 28, 2018
By Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review editor
MINNEAPOLIS — Running for Congress in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, DFL-endorsed Ilhan Omar is following the example of her predecessor, Keith Ellison. She and her campaign are working hard to boost voter turn-out and bring new voters to the polls.
Indeed, that goal was one reason that prompted Omar to jump into the race when Ellison announced he would not seek re-election but would instead run for Minnesota Attorney General.
“I didn’t really see anyone else running who had as much passion as I did about voter turnout and would run a program that’s inclusive of everyone in the district,” she told the Labor Review.
Ellison’s work to increase the 5th District’s voter turnout — despite the fact that it’s a safe seat for DFLers — arguably made a difference in several recent statewide elections that were determined by the slimmest of margins.
Likewise, Omar’s work to continue focusing on 5th District voter turnout could prove to be decisive in this year’s statewide contests, which also may be close.
Omar’s campaign has drawn national attention and generated excitement as she will be the first Somali-immigrant — and the first Muslim woman — to be elected to the U.S. House.
“To me, I feel I represent optimism about what is possible,” Omar said. “I have a deep-seated belief in the possibility of our democracy…”
“It’s through an immigrant lens of someone who loves our democracy in a way that only someone who has experienced the absence of it could,” she said.
Omar was born in Mogadishu but fled Somalia’s civil war with her family when she was eight years old. After four years in a refugee camp in Kenya, the family eventually resettled in Minneapolis. At age 14, Omar was interpreting for grandfather at DFL precinct caucuses.
She became an organizer and coalition-builder while attending Edison High School and later graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in political science and international studies.
While working as a nutrition educator for the University of Minnesota Extension Service, Omar was a member of AFSCME Local 3800 — and walked picket lines with her young children in tow during a strike. “The camaraderie and solidarity was powerful,” she said.
“It was my first exposure to the kind of day-to-day struggles that union members are partaking on behalf of every worker,” she said.
Elected to the Minnesota House in 2016, Omar earned a 100 percent voting record from the Minnesota AFL-CIO over the past two legislative sessions.
She was endorsed in her 2018 run for Congress by the Minnesota AFL-CIO following her primary election win.
“The center of the conversation to guarantee American prosperity is making sure we’re fighting for protections for working people,” Omar said. “Unions are a huge part of that… You are the frontline fighters.”