MINNEAPOLIS — Long home to the nation's largest Somali population, Minnesota elected the first Somali-American lawmaker in the U.S. on Tuesday.
Ilhan Omar won a state House seat to represent a Minneapolis neighborhood often called "Little Mogadishu." A steady rise in the Somali community's political power in the area led to Omar's election. The city elected a Somali city councilor in 2013 and a Somali school board member in 2010.
A 33-year-old community activist with deep ties in Minneapolis' Somali community, Omar came to the United States as an 8-year-old after spending four years in a Kenyan refugee camp.
Her victory was a near foregone conclusion in the heavily Democratic district. After defeating the district's 44-year incumbent in a three-way primary, Omar delivered her victory speech twice: once in English, and again in Somali. Soon after, her Republican rival dropped out of the race.
Mohamud Noor, a local Somali nonprofit director, narrowly lost a primary for the same seat in 2014.
More than 40,000 Somalis have settled in Minneapolis, St. Cloud and elsewhere in Minnesota, according to census estimates, drawn by the state's welcoming social programs. But community advocates say that population is much higher.