Kahn faces competitive primary race for House 60B seat

Updated: August 9, 2016 - 8:16 am

The Aug. 9 primary election will determine which candidates will advance to the general election on Nov. 8.

In Minneapolis, the primary features both partisan and nonpartisan races. The partisan offices on the ballot include U.S. Representative (District 5); Minnesota State Senator (Districts 59 and 62); and Minnesota State Representative (District 59A and 60B). The nonpartisan race is Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice (Seat 6).

One of the most noteworthy primary races is the battle for House 60B. The District includes Nicollet Island, neighborhoods along the riverfront, the U of M area and Cedar-Riverside.

Veteran lawmaker Phyllis Kahn, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1972, faces competition from fellow DFLers Ilhan Omar and Mohamud Noor.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn
Rep. Phyllis Kahn

Omar nearly secured the DFL endorsement in April for the seat, but was just shy of the 60 percent of delegate votes.

She currently works as director of the Women Organizing Women Network, which advocates for East African women to take on civic leadership roles and become more active in their communities. She previously worked as an aide to City Council Member Andrew Johnson (Ward 12).

“I am motivated by the belief that our district can be a place of prosperity and equity, where everyone has opportunities, whether you are a long term resident, a new American, or a student,” she said. “I am dedicated to advancing an agenda focused on economic, social, racial and environmental justice so that we can move forward together. When elected, I will be a powerful advocate at the Capitol for the diverse voices of our community.”

Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar

As for top priorities, Omar said she would focus on closing the opportunity gap by “creating a holistic cradle-to-career approach and investing in wrap-around services” and making higher education more affordable by pushing for more funding and expanding programs that provide debt forgiveness for public students and capping student loan interest at a reasonable rate.

“We need a leader who has the cultural fluency to authentically represent our district at the Capitol. I am that person. I have the passion, energy, and the dedication to build bridges within our neighborhoods — and at the Legislature,” she said.

Kahn said her more than four decades of experience at the Capitol make her the best person to represent the district. She also has a Ph.D. in biophysics from Yale and master of public administration from the J.F.K School of Government at Harvard.

“I bring a unique perspective to the process as one of few scientists in legislatures in the country,” she said. “This has affected my legislative work on issues ranging from the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, DNA testing, computer technology, etc.”

As for her legislative accomplishments, she points to her work as chief author of the Minnesota Clean Indoor Act in 1975, which banned smoking in indoor public places and become a model for other states. She also points to a strong record on the environment, gender equity and support for funding for parks, trail and historic preservation, among other things.

Kahn also touted her ability to work with people with a variety of political beliefs as a strong asset.

Noor previously ran against Kahn for the House seat, but lost to her in a primary election in 2014.

Mohamud Noor
Mohamud Noor

He is the executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota and a former Minneapolis School Board member.

Noor’s platform focuses on pushing for an expansion of high-quality and affordable childcare and early childhood education, improved healthcare, a “living wage” for workers, environmental and racial justices.

Absentee voting is underway for the primary election. Voters can cast their ballot by mail or in person at the city’s new Early Vote Center at 217 S. 3rd St. For more information about submitting an absentee ballot by mail, go to vote.minneapolismn.gov.

As for the Nov. 8 general election, offices on the ballot include races for President & Vice President; U.S. Representative District 5; Minnesota State Senator (all districts); Minnesota State Representative (all districts); Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice (Seat 6); Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge (several seats); Fourth District Court Judge (several seats); and Minneapolis School Board (Districts 2, 4, 6 and one at-large seat.)

There is also a proposed state constitutional amendment that asks voters to vote yes or no on the following question: Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to remove state lawmakers’ power to set their own salaries, and instead establish an independent, citizens-only council to prescribe salaries of lawmakers?

There has also been petition drives to put two proposed amendments to the Minneapolis charter on the ballot. One would require police officers to carry professional liability insurance and the other would raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

There will also be a Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) referendum on the ballot asking voters to renewing the existing levy, which makes up 13 percent of the MPS budget. The referendum would provide $74 million annually to the district.

Omar leads in fundraising

Omar has raised nearly twice as much money for her campaign than Kahn and Noor.

This year, Omar has raised $58,000 from 500 individual contributions compared to Kahn’s $32,000 and Noor’s $31,000.

“I’m so proud that the majority of contributions to my campaign are from members of the Somali community who believe in my leadership. As a woman of color, so many people told me that I would not be able to raise money for a campaign. 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 elected office and win,” Omar said in a press release.

Dan Cox, Omar’s campaign manager, said her success comes from her deep relationship to the community that’s atypical of campaigns in general. “Money only does so much, having a conversation with voters is the most important part of a campaign,” he said. “History is littered with well funded campaigns who didn’t spend wisely and were not successful.”

Kahn said she believes in fundraising limits. “Voters need to believe in candidates intrinsic qualities, not the amount of money they raised,” she said. “I would never see fundraising as something to brag about in my campaign.”

Cox said he doesn’t disagree with Kahn’s sentiment. “Fundraising is one aspect of campaigning, the work Ilhan has done in the community has allowed her to raise so much money,” he said. “This race should be decided by who’s getting out in the community more and who’s campaigning the hardest.”

— Carter Jones

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At a glance: 2016 primary election

When: Tuesday, Aug. 9, 7 a.m.–8 p.m.

What: The primary election will determine which candidates will advance to the general election on Nov. 8.

Voter resources: To download a sample ballot and find out where to vote, among other things, go to vote.minneapolismn.gov.

Early voting for primary

Early voting for the primary is available at the city’s Early Vote Center, 217 S. 3rd St. through Aug. 8. Hours are 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. During the final two weeks before the primary, there will be extended hours. The Early Voter Center will be open Saturday, July 30 and Saturday, Aug. 6, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. For the final day of early voting on Monday, Aug. 8, hours will be 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Election judges needed

The city needs election judges for the primary election to assist voters in polling places. Pay is $13.30 per hour, which includes training. Judges who are fluent in second languages are especially needed, including Spanish, Somali, Hmong, Oromo, Lao, Vietnamese, Russian and American Sign Language. Find out more at vote.minneapolismn.gov/judges or call 311.