1:45 p.m., Wednesday. There’s a sign for Rep. Phyllis Kahn on the lawn on this quiet Seward street, but her political challenger pays it no mind.
“Hi there .. My name is Mohamud Noor,” he says, walking right up to the voter sitting outside.
“Yes, I recognize your face,” says the woman brightly.
Her name is Maggie Zoncki and she is torn. She likes Kahn, a 42-year veteran of the House. But a letter in support of Noor that ran in the Strib made her reconsider, even though it was on the same page as an editorial board endorsement of Kahn.
“She’s a really nice woman, and I love what she’s done, but I also believe in changing, and 42 years is a long time,” Zoncki says.
She tells Noor she’ll decide by Tuesday.
“The signs don’t vote, it’s the residents who are going be voting,” says Noor, after passing more than a half-dozen signs for Kahn. His campaign has not invested much in signs.
Noor hopes these face-to-face pitches pay off at the polls next Tuesday, when the DFL primary will take place. Already, the House race has garnered statewide attention and carved divisions among Democrats and Noor’s own Somali-American community.
For now, he and two campaign aides walk up and down residential streets off East Franklin hoping to catch someone, anyone, who is home. It is part of their final push to convince voters to choose the unknown over the known.
Noor was appointed to the school board in January and heads the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. He announced his candidacy months after Kahn had aided Abdi Warsame’s successful bid to be elected the first Somali-American on the City Council.
People tell him to wait for his turn, says Noor, who would work to improve early childhood education and close the racial “opportunity gap” if elected.
“So why do we have elections? Why don’t we just wait for people until [it’s] their time?”
Just across the river, four hours later, Kahn stands on a sidewalk in Prospect Park answering questions from a news reporter from Fox 9 News.
Was Noor an opportunist?
She replies that he’s already run for various offices – school board, state Senate – and “I’ve only run for one thing in my life … I don’t give up things that I’ve done just to do something else.”
When the TV reporter tells her how interesting it’s been to watch her in the legislature, she says, “Just think how boring it would be if I wasn’t there! No 12 year old voting, no cousins marrying, no legalization of everything.”
After the reporter leaves, and she starts door-knocking, she addresses Noor’s contention that he is more in line with the changing demographics of the district.
“He’s Somali, and I’m not Somali, so he’s obviously more in touch … what I’m very proud of, of course, is the number of Somali supporters I have.” She guesses she has up to 30 percent of Somali support, while Noor contends that his support is 95 percent.
Kahn spies two college kids walking by.
“I’m Phyllis Kahn, the state legislator, and I’m running for reelection, and it’s a very contentious primary if you haven’t seen,” she tells them.
The kids haven’t seen. She gives them some campaign lit. One becomes interested after seeing her support for freezing tuition at the U.
Then, onto the condos nearby. She wraps on a door four times in quick succession.
“Hello?” a man’s voice calls from a screened upstairs balcony.
“Hello?” Kahn calls back.
She steps back to see who it is.
“Who’s at the door?” the man calls out, still a sight unseen.
“State Representative Phyllis Kahn.”
“Oh! Phyllis! You got our votes. I’m so happy.”
He races down.
Kahn gives him her spiel: “One of the problems is the voter turnout of this primary, so if you can tell people to vote … “