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Ohio state rep. Ismail Mohamed delivers victory speech in Somali after landslide win


Thursday March 21, 2024



Columbus (HOL) - Ohio State Representative Ismail Mohamed delivered his victory speech in Somali on Tuesday night after winning the Democratic primary for the state's 3rd House District. Mohamed, a Somali immigrant, secured a landslide victory over fellow Somali immigrant Abdirizak Diini and local political activist Julia Trabold.

Mohamed, who is 31 years old and serving as the incumbent representative, was first elected in 2022. The landmark win marked him as the first Somali lawmaker in the state, a distinction he shares with Munira Abdullahi of the 9th District. Originally arriving in the United States in 2005 as a refugee, Mohamed settled in Ohio after spending time in Kenya. He graduated from high school in Ohio and later became an attorney. His journey to the U.S. was facilitated by his father, a former Arabic translator for the US armed forces during the Iraq invasion, who later became a U.S. citizen and sponsored his family's visas.

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Mohamed's campaign primarily focused on addressing the needs of the significant Somali population in his area. Columbus, Ohio, hosts over 45,000 Somali residents, second only to a district in Minnesota represented by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Mohamed has previously communicated with his constituents in Somali, including releasing a campaign video on Somalia's state-owned TV channel. In this video, he highlighted his efforts in naming a local street after Somali nationalist icon Sayyid Mohamed Abdulla Hassan and his involvement with other Somali representatives in the U.S. government.

Mohamed has expressed a collective aim to advocate for Somali interests in the U.S. Despite this, his political agenda also aligns with broader progressive policies, emphasizing equity in housing and education. 

'I want to use my voice to fight for equitable policies, all in the pursuit of a brighter future for every resident across the district and State,' he told the Columbus Dispatch.

Post-election, he extended thanks to his supporters on Facebook, reflecting on the election's challenges and reiterating his commitment to serve all constituents.

'I want to take a moment to reflect on the recent election, as it presented unique challenges, including a spirited challenge from within my own Somali community. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow from this experience. It has opened my eyes to a broader range of concerns and perspectives within our district," he wrote in part.

Mohamed's speech drew the ire of right-wing pundits, who took umbrage because his victory speech was delivered in Somali rather than English. They likened Mohamed to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the most prominent Somali lawmaker in the country, who Republicans heavily criticized in late January for a speech she delivered in Somali during which she seemed to say she would advocate for Somali interests.

The controversy revolves around the roles of representation and advocacy in U.S. politics. Somali-Americans have highlighted that other ethnic communities, including Jewish-Americans, have historically supported their countries of origin. This practice is generally accepted within the American political framework.




 





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