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Somali Community Drives Record-Breaking Caucus Turnout

Friday March 4, 2016

A presidential race may have been the reason for record turnout in DFL caucuses near the University of Minnesota and North Minneapolis, but it was a local legislative race that was fueling the passion in crowded caucus rooms. At the Brian Coyle Center more than 300 people crammed into the gym, a turnout that was much higher than expected. A large portion of them were first-time caucus goers who wanted to replace 21-term Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL) with someone from the Somali community.

Voters — many of them Somali— turned out in record numbers to vote in the hotly contested legislative and presidential races.

“This is my first time caucusing. It’s wonderful to see all these people come out here,” said Said Faras, a Muhamed Noor supporter.

Noor, incumbent Representative Phyllis Kahn, and Ilhan Omar are running for the House seat in District 60B. At the end of the night, Noor had 17 delegates, Omar had 9 delegates, and Kahn had 1 delegate. District wide delegate counts for the Omar, Noor and Kahn were not available. According to a press release from Omar’s campaign, she won the most delegates in 8 of the 12 precincts in House District 60B. Delegates will vote on endorsing a candidate on April 9th. If there is a primary it would be held in August.

“We support Ilhan because she can do a lot of good stuff for our community. That’s why we’re here and that’s why we’re supporting her,” says one Omar supporter who declined to give their name.

Many caucus attendees showed up so they could learn more about the candidates in both the legislative and presidential races.

During the caucus, both Noor and Omar addressed caucus-goers in Somali. However, Noor also led caucus attendees and supporters in an English-language chant of “we will win.” Somali was the native language of many attendees.

If either Omar or Noor won, they would be the first ever Somali-American elected official in the country. Somali immigrants are Minnesota’s fastest growing immigrant community.

Noor addressing caucus attendees.
Omar addressing caucus attendees in Somali. 

Presidential Race Also Drives Turnout

“I had been planning to caucus for Hillary, but then I learned more about Bernie and his message is in my heart. That’s why I came to the caucus tonight to learn even more about the candidates,” Sonya Boeser, a Sanders fan says.

Minneapolis’ Senate District 60 saw the highest turnout numbers from across the state on a record-breaking night across Minnesota. Across the district, more than 13,000 people showed up to their neighborhood caucuses. At Precinct 3, the majority of caucus attendees were elderly African immigrants or students from the University of Minnesota.



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