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Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar is featured on the Sept. 18, 2017, cover of Time Magazine. (Courtesy of Time Magazine)

Nation’s 1st Somali-American lawmaker eyes seat in Congress

By KYLE POTTER, Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Ilhan Omar escaped her war-torn homeland of Somalia as a child and grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before immigrating to the United States as a preteen. She learned English by watching American television.

Years later, she became the nation’s first and only Somali-American lawmaker when she won a seat in the Minnesota House. Now she’s aiming for another spot in history: the first Somali-American member of Congress.

When Rep. Keith Ellison launched a late bid Tuesday to become the state’s attorney general, Omar rushed into a crowded field of eight Democrats seeking to replace him. Her competitors include a former state House speaker and two state senators as well as Ellison’s ex-wife, Kim Ellison.

A win for Omar would further elevate a rising star in Minnesota politics who has positioned herself as a “counter-narrative” to President Donald Trump and his efforts to clamp down on immigration.

“I know what it feels like to be a young family looking for opportunity in the United States,” the 35-year-old said moments after registering to run. “I am excited to go and be a voice for the voiceless at the Capitol.”

Omar’s family fled Somalia when she was just 8, as civil war tore apart the country. They spent four years in a Mombasa, Kenya, camp with tens of thousands of other refugees. At age 12, the family was sponsored to move to the United States, eventually settling in Minnesota.

That story is familiar in Minnesota, which is home to the largest population of Somalis outside Somalia, as well as a neighborhood dubbed “Little Mogadishu.” In her campaign for the state Legislature, Omar harnessed her community’s growing political power as well as the city’s younger and more liberal voting base to make history. [Read More…]

Source: The Grio