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Minnesota Elects Nation's First Somali-American Lawmaker

Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, was elected Tuesday to the state's House of Representatives.

Posted on November 8, 2016, at 10:29 p.m. ET

Ilhan Omar / Via Facebook: IlhanMN

A Somali-American will represent Minnesotans in the state legislature for the first time.

Ilhan Omar, a Democratic community activist, won a seat in the state House of Representatives in Tuesday's election. She earned around 82% of votes in her district, which covers a portion of Minneapolis.

Omar defeated Republican Abdimalik Askar, who is also Somali-American.

It was a historic race for Minnesota, which is home to more Somalis and Somali-Americans than any other state in the US. On Sunday, Donald Trump said the state had "suffered enough" for taking in Somali refugees, a characterization that many Minnesotans rejected.

Omar was born in Somalia, and she and her family fled when she was 8. They spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before settling in the US.

She works for the group Women Organizing Women, encouraging East African women to take leadership roles in their communities, and also serves on the boards of various nonprofit groups as well as her state party's feminist caucus.

In August, Omar told BuzzFeed News she hoped to inspire other women of color to seek out positions of leadership.

"As a woman of color, so many people told me that I would not be able to raise money and win this election,” Omar said in a statement at the time.

"Those people were wrong, and I want every young woman of color out there to know that they have the power — and support — to run for office and win."


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.

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