Minnesota’s first Somali-American state representative has again made history: She is now the country’s first Somali-American elected to Congress.
State Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, defeated Republican Jennifer Zielinski in the race to represent the state’s Fifth District, which spans Minneapolis, Edina, Richfield, Golden Valley and other suburbs.
Omar, 36, is a vocal advocate for single-payer health care, tighter gun restrictions and more expansive immigration policies. She has captured national attention because of her life story as a refugee who made her way into elected office. She immigrated to the United States at age 12 and served as a Minneapolis City Council policy aide before winning election to the Legislature in 2016.
“Here in Minnesota, we don’t only welcome immigrants; we send them to Washington,” Omar told supporters at a victory party in Minneapolis.
Zielinski, a clinical specialist for Allina Health, had hoped to flip a seat that’s been held by Democrats since the early 1960s — most recently by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who opted to run for state attorney general this year.