Updated at 3:58 p.m.
A candidate vying to be the city's first Somali City Council member has snagged the support of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, giving new legitimacy to a DFL endorsement some said was unfair.
Abdi Warsame announced on Facebook yesterday that the Fifth District congressman had endorsed his campaign against Robert Lilligren. It is a notable development, given how contentious the race is likely to be this fall (Ellison has also endorsed in the competitive Ward 3 race).
Lilligren, an 11-year incumbent, 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 -- in November.
The endorsements include Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Sen. Kari Dziedzic, Sen. Jeff Hayden and park commissioners John Erwin and Scott Vreeland, according to a Somali Public Radio report. It appears Vreeland and Erwin signed on in late July.
“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. He also noted that he ran against an endorsed candidate during his first campaign, meaning the DFL has only endorsed him in half of his 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 is now 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.
"My campaign team and I are proud of this new relationship with the Congressman and will work to ensure that our successes are always a source of pride to him and indeed, to all of our supporters," Warsame wrote on Facebook, of the Ellison endorsement.
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 comprise a majority of the 13 member body.