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Sometime allies Warsame, Noor are now opponents in Minneapolis race

Tuesday February 7, 2017

When Mohamud Noor ran for state House last year, Abdi Warsame campaigned for him.

Now Noor is running against Warsame for Minneapolis City Council, a decision that's got the Somali community buzzing and sets up a showdown of local powerhouses in the Sixth Ward, which includes the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood and parts of Seward and Phillips.

Noor, director of the nonprofit Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said Warsame was elected in 2013 with high expectations and has not met them.

"We are all extremely disappointed with the work of Council Member Abdi Warsame," Noor said.

Noor said if elected he will focus on jobs and opportunity, housing, police reform and working with neighborhood groups. Poverty and homelessness are too high in the ward, Noor said, and Warsame has not done a good enough job of listening to the community and acting on its concerns.

"If he was doing that, I would not have been approached, and I would not run," Noor said. "There isn't much to celebrate."

A third candidate, Tiffini Flynn Forslund, is also competing for the DFL endorsement in the Sixth Ward. She's an active volunteer in Minneapolis and St. Paul and was one of four plaintiffs in Forslund vs. Minnesota, a lawsuit that alleged state teacher tenure and dismissal laws are unconstitutional.

Forslund, who teaches third grade at T.R.U.T.H. Preparatory Academy in St. Paul and lives in Seward, said if elected she will fight for racial equality, against gentrification and for a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis that was the subject of a petition drive called 15 Now.

"There were over 7,000 signatures on a petition that was brought to the City Council, and they still didn't vote on it," Forslund said. "I think that is really important."

The race will be Noor's fifth run at public office since 2010. He was appointed as a Minneapolis school board member in 2013 and then ran for the state House against Phyllis Kahn in 2014. Warsame backed Kahn in that election, but when Noor and now-Rep. Ilhan Omar each challenged Kahn in the 2016 DFL primary, Warsame supported Noor.

Warsame said he feels no ill will toward his former ally.

"It's not personal. I have no issues with Mr. Noor, or with Tiffini, or with anybody that's in the race," Warsame said. "We have a positive campaign, a campaign about ideas. We have a lot of things that we've done that we're very proud of. Funding the parks, fixing the roads in Cedar Riverside, the Opportunity Center. We've led a competent first term."

However, Warsame said he sees the meddling of the Sabri family in the race, which he said he believes is a response to his public call for a new mall that will give East African merchants an option other than the two large Sabri-owned shopping centers in south Minneapolis.

"It's quite interesting that people have jumped into the race after we declared that we were going to build a mall," Warsame said. "This is the Sabri machine working again, and we are very confident that we will take them on."

Basim Sabri, a Palestinian by birth, on Monday called Warsame "a disappointment" whom he will "definitely not be supporting," and praised Noor for his activism and popularity. But Sabri said he hasn't decided who he will support in the race.

"We all agree we need a Somali voice downtown to represent the Muslim and Somali voice, and Mr. Warsame is far from that," Sabri said.
Warsame questioned the timing of the announced candidacies of Forslund and Noor.

Sabri told the Southwest Journal on Jan. 24 that he knew of two candidates running against Warsame — a week before Forslund and Noor registered their campaigns.

Noor denied Monday that Sabri or his family had anything to do with his campaign, adding that if Warsame wanted to build a new Somali mall he should have worked on it in his first term. "Using it as a smear, that doesn't work. I think people know better," Noor said.

A Somali woman, Fadumo Yusuf , also has said on social media that she's running for the Sixth Ward council seat, though she has not yet registered with Hennepin County Elections.


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