By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota could make history by electing the nation’s first Somali-American lawmaker this fall.

In Tuesday’s primary election, Ilhan Omar, 33, beat out DFL State Representative Phyllis Kahn, who had served for 44 years in the seat. She’ll face off against a Republican challenger this fall in the largely Democratic district representing the Cedar-Riverside and University of Minnesota neighborhoods in Minneapolis.

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“I think it’s the diversity of the district that is exciting,” Omar said.

Omar says she is honored so many believed in her. She says her win is the result of the unification of diverse voices in the district — long term residents, East African immigrants and students.

“We wanted to have a campaign that uplifted all of the voices of the people of the district, and that included young people,” she said.

Omar was able to motivate younger voters and was a big factor in getting more people to the polls for this year’s primary.

“The people in the district, I think, for a long time had felt that all of their voices weren’t heard, and this was their opportunity to collectively say ‘We are ready for change,'” Omar said.

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Omar says she is dedicated to closing the opportunity gap, and focused on economic, social, racial and environmental justice.

Her win means the end the line for one of the longest serving legislators in state history, Phyllis Kahn, who was the first female elected in the district 44 years ago.

Phyllis Kahn (credit: Minnesota House of Representatives)

Phyllis Kahn (credit: Minnesota House of Representatives)

Omar says she is proud that her district continues to make history.

“And today our district is ready to elect the first Muslim woman of East African descent to our state capitol, and that’s a brilliant story, and sort of repeating history for our district,” Omar said.

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Omar was born in Somalia, and spent time in a refugee camp in Kenya before moving to the Twin Cities nearly 20 years ago. Omar faces Republican Abdimalik  Aska in the general election in November.

Reg Chapman