A candidate vying to become the first Somali member of the Minneapolis City Council has landed the support of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, giving new legitimacy to a DFL endorsement that some said was unfair.
Abdi Warsame announced on Facebook Sunday that the Minneapolis-area congressman had endorsed his campaign against incumbent Robert Lilligren. It is a notable development, given how contentious the race is likely to be this fall.
Lilligren, an 11-year council member, withdrew from consideration at the DFL’s endorsing convention this spring, alleging improprieties during the caucus process. Lilligren formally challenged the endorsement, but it was upheld by the state party.
A smattering of other DFL politicians have also lined up behind Warsame, indicating that the party is ready for a fight with one of its own — Lilligren — this fall. City elections will be held on Nov. 5.
Warsame’s endorsements include state Rep. Phyllis Kahn, state Sen. Kari Dziedzic, state Sen. Jeff Hayden and park commissioners John Erwin and Scott Vreeland.
“I think it goes a long way to basically signify to the voters that this is a legitimate candidacy and this is a legitimate campaign,” Warsame said Monday.
Lilligren said he has support from Reps. Karen Clark and Frank Hornstein, as well as Sen. Scott Dibble, all of whom represent Minneapolis at the State Capitol. He noted that he ran against an endorsed candidate during his first campaign in 2001, meaning the DFL has endorsed him in only half of his four races.
“It doesn’t change anything from my campaign or from my end,” Lilligren said of the Ellison endorsement.
Due in part to redistricting, which Warsame helped shape, Lilligren’s 6th Ward consists now of about 40 percent East African residents. The new ward follows Franklin Avenue in south Minneapolis and reaches into the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.
Warsame is president of the tenants association at Riverside Plaza, home to many of the city’s East African residents.
Because of competitive council races and some incumbents leaving their seats open, as many as seven new faces could be sitting behind the dais at City Hall next year. That would constitute a majority of the 13-member City Council.