Following her victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Minnesota’s reliably blue 5th congressional district, progressive former refugee Ilhan Omar is widely expected to become the first Somali-American member of the U.S. House this fall—18 years after escaping her home country’s civil war.
Omar’s victory follows that of Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American former state lawmaker in Michigan, who won her own Democratic primary in Michigan’s 13th district earlier this month.
Omar beat out five opponents after campaigning on a progressive platform, speaking out in favor of Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and affordable housing as a right for all Americans.
Her economic agenda calls for strong protections against wage theft, a federal jobs guarantee, and investment in worker-owned cooperatives.
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“We said our district was ready for a bold vision,” Omar said in her victory speech Tuesday. “We said our district was ready for someone who had more courage and clarity to go to Washington. We said we were going to fight the politics of fear and scarcity…and make sure that not only we have the America we believe in but the America we deserve.”
Omar won endorsements from the Sierra Club for her bold climate agenda demanding 100% renewable energy by 2035, as well as National Nurses United, Our Revolution, and a number of other progressive organizations.
“Ilhan Omar’s victory joins a wave of primary wins for climate progressives,” said 350 Action executive director May Boeve. “Her campaign is lifting up climate action and challenging Big Oil billionaires as part of a broad platform for justice. Minnesotans deserve a representative in Congress who’s willing to fight against dangerous fossil fuel projects like Line 3 and support the transition to a 100 percent renewable energy economy that puts millions of Americans to work.”
The state legislator and community organizer also gained attention from voters for her personal story of escaping Somalia with her family when she was eight years old. The family spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the United States, where they settled in Minneapolis.
“If the eight-year-old me knew about an Ilhan who was in a refugee camp at eight and became a state representative, that would have given me a lot more hopes and a lot more things to look forward to,” Omar said in a campaign video. “And I think my win is really so much more for those eight-year-olds than it is for me.”
Omar’s win was one of a number of progressive victories on Tuesday night, including that of Randy Bryce, who is running to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district and Christine Hallquist, who became the first transgender nominee of a major political party for governor after winning her Democratic primary in Vermont.
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