As an immigrant, Muslim, Somali and woman of color, I have been asked by many why I am running for Congress against Rep. Ilhan Omar. Rep. Omar’s election in 2018 was iconic. She broke barriers. We celebrated because we thought it was the beginning of a new era.

It was not.

The recent commentary “Critiques ignore Omar’s accomplishments” (April 23) points out that Omar is fighting for issues that we should all be fighting for. However, the concern is not that what she is fighting for is inconsistent with what most of us believe in. The problem is that we need someone focused on local issues and pragmatic policies, not divisive grandstanding.

We need someone who spends more time listening to her constituents than expanding her celebrity, and someone creating positive change for our people, not raising millions to spend on Washington consultants.

We need a representative focused on issues of the Fifth District. I respect those who work on international causes — this is incredibly important work. But someone who is elected to represent a district in Minnesota should not be focused internationally at the expense of the issues that directly affect our constituents. Our district deserves a public servant who works for us.

We need a representative who is honest and transparent. When campaigning, Omar provided answers to questions important to many of our Jewish neighbors, but changed her position when she got to Congress. When asked about this pivot, Omar has buffered scrutiny with defensive responses and avoided responsibility with hypercritical attacks. This is not the kind of leadership the Fifth District deserves.

We need a representative who will do the work. Omar has left us behind with her poor attendance record: She has missed 5.7% of her votes in 2019, making her the seventh most absent of all 92 House freshmen. We lost out on representation and advocacy that was owed to the people of the Fifth District.

The recent commentary also points out that “since the coronavirus crisis began” Omar has held livestream town halls and news conferences. The coronavirus crisis began less than two months ago, and Omar has been in office for over a year. Where has she been prior to this? And why has she only just now started focusing locally? We deserve a leader who knows the difference between grandstanding and governing.

We need a representative who will bring people together. People are tired of divisiveness. The recent commentary references the number of bills and amendments Omar has introduced as testament to her record of accomplishment. It fails to mention her lack of willingness to work with others to get things done and to get bills passed for our district. She secured a bipartisan cosponsor on only one bill.

Of all 232 House Democrats, there are only three who secured fewer bipartisan cosponsors. We can no longer afford gridlock. I am a passionate, progressive Democrat, but I am also pragmatic and will make reasonable compromises so Minnesota’s Fifth District sees positive change.

But I want to show you “why Leila Shukri” more than “why not Omar.” I am also an immigrant, Muslim, Somali and woman of color, so I bring that diverse and valuable perspective to Congress, but I also bring a wealth of experience and strong values to the job.

For the past 20 years, I have worked in government, nonprofit and small-business-sectors in health care, youth violence prevention, education and community organizing. I have strong networks across faiths, races and cultures. I have lived in neighborhoods across the district, including Uptown, south Minneapolis, Hopkins and St. Louis Park.

I have a deep understanding of the many issues related to health care. In 2004, I co-founded a Minneapolis-based federally qualified community clinic that provides care to underrepresented and underinsured community members. My work across sectors has allowed me to see and understand issues from a variety of perspectives and to build authentic relationships that will help me make progress at the capitol and in our communities here in the Fifth District.

My values were formed through my family, my community, my faith and from being a mother. These values have inspired my commitment to affordable health care, quality education and responsible stewardship of our environment. We need to close the opportunity gap: COVID-19 has exposed troubling inequities in our communities and proves we can no longer afford hyper-partisanship and high-minded ideals that don’t translate into action.

My motivation: I never expected to run for public office. I have heard many frustrations over the past year and a half from people who feel they aren’t being heard. I searched for a candidate who would represent our district well. However, when I did not find someone I felt confident about, I decided to step up myself. What I want for myself, my family and my community is to have a trusted representative who will listen, take feedback and advocate for all of us.

I am Leila Shukri Adan, and I want to work for you. Let’s make a fresh start because it’s our Minnesota.


Leila Shukri Adan, a Democrat, is a candidate for the U.S. House: