A.J. Awed on Thursday night joined a fast-growing field of candidates for mayor of Minneapolis.
He joins at least five others running for the office, including incumbent Jacob Frey. In addition to electing a major in November, city residents also will vote on all 13 City Council seats.
Awed, 30, is not new to local politics. The Stevens Square resident ran for City Council during a special election last year, losing to Jamal Osman. He is also co-executive director of the Cedar-Riverside Community Council.
"My main objective is to legitimize the struggle of the BIPOC community and most importantly build bridges between communities," he said in an interview during his announcement at a venue near the Somali Museum of Minnesota and by many Somali businesses. "I don't like the direction our city is going in and we really need to have a common voice."
Awed also accused Frey of poor leadership following the death of George Floyd. "Mayor Frey has really failed the city," he said. "He doesn't have the capacity or credibility to bring communities together."
When it comes to police reform, Awed said he believes law enforcement is necessary, but residents' faith in police needs to be restored.
"That's what needs to be ultimately changed — is building a system where everybody has a buy-in," he said.
Other contenders for the mayor's office include Sheila Nezhad, Kate Knuth and Phil Sturm, who are seeking the DFL endorsement, and Jerrell Perry, who is running as an independent.
During his City Council campaign last year, Awed ran as an independent, saying on his campaign website that he was "proud of our collective efforts to build a grassroots coalition to fight for the policies we deserve: protecting and expanding public housing; pushing for rent control; reimagining policing and public safety; addressing the opioid crisis through restorative justice; and opposing the gentrification of our neighborhoods."
He ran in a crowded field of 11 candidates who sought to represent the city's Sixth Ward, which includes the neighborhoods of Cedar-Riverside, Elliot Park, Phillips West, Seward, Stevens Square and Ventura Village.
That City Council seat had been vacated by Abdi Warsame, who left the council to take the helm of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority.
Staff writer Liz Navratil contributed to this report.