DFLers in the Fifth Congressional District are scheduled to meet Sunday to try to endorse a primary candidate for the newly open congressional seat.
The endorsement is functionally a symbolic gesture, since all five candidates will appear on the Aug. 14 primary ballot no matter what happens. But official party backing still confers status in the heavily Democratic district, with all of Minneapolis as well as St. Louis Park, Edina, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale and other suburbs.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison has represented the district since 2003 but decided this month to run for attorney general. That set off a scramble among would-be successors, including three with State Capitol experience: former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Rep. Ilhan Omar and Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, all of Minneapolis.
The other two candidates filed to run as DFLers are Jamal Abdulahi of Minneapolis, president of a health care information startup and the founder of the DFL Somali-American Caucus, and Frank Nelson Drake of Edina, a Realtor who was the Republican candidate against Ellison in 2016.
There are three candidates in the Republican primary: Jennifer Zielinski, an Allina Health employee who got the party endorsement; Christopher Chamberlin, a St. Cloud resident who told the St. Cloud Times he'd move to Minneapolis if elected; and Bob Carney, a frequent candidate.
On Saturday, Anderson Kelliher said in a statement she is forgoing the endorsement convention, citing its hasty setup on Father's Day.
Anderson Kelliher, president and CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association, served six terms in the state House from 1999 to 2010, including two as speaker. She was the DFL-endorsed candidate for governor in 2010 but lost the primary to Mark Dayton.
Omar, a former Minneapolis City Council policy aide, is in her first term in the Minnesota House. Though a relative newcomer to state politics, she's had national media attention for her story of coming to the U.S. as a refugee and becoming the first Somali-American to serve in any state legislature.
Torres Ray, the first Latina to serve in the Minnesota Senate, was first elected in 2006. In 2010, she was lieutenant governor running mate to Sen. John Marty until the pair withdrew.
Abdulahi, like Omar, was born in Somalia and came to the U.S. as a refugee. He has worked as an electrical engineer for Lockheed Martin and served as a community organizer and volunteer on several DFL campaigns.
Drake, as the GOP candidate in 2016, got 22 percent of the vote to Ellison's 69 percent. On his Facebook page, he wrote he is running as a DFLer because he is "just going for the best odds."