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Get to know legislative hopeful Anquam Mahamoud, who puts health care front and center

Friday May 10, 2024
By Mohamud Farah

The mental health administrator is launching her first campaign and dreaming of big changes to help the south Minneapolis district where she grew up.

Anquam Mahamoud is running to represent district 62B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

An open state House seat in south Minneapolis led to a spirited, four-way contest for the DFL endorsement this spring, with health care administrator Anquam Mahamoud receiving the party’s nod.

The opening came after DFL Representative Hodan Hassan decided not to seek re-election after three terms.

Anquam, (ahn-AHM), 35, is the chief operating officer at Twin Cities Health Services, a substance abuse treatment center and mental health provider in Minneapolis. 

Although she’s new to politics, she’s already amassed a long list of endorsements from fellow Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. She also has the backing of Women Winning, a political organization that recruits and trains pro-choice women to run for office.

Anquam could face at least one challenger during the DFL primary on August 13. Former Minneapolis Park Commissioner Londel French has not yet suspended his campaign. The Minnesota GOP did not respond to an email requesting information about its endorsed candidate in District 62B.

In an interview with Sahan Journal, Anquam talked about her experience growing up in an immigrant household in south Minneapolis, her dream of universal health care in Minnesota, and how serving the most marginalized members of a community can lead to a system that benefits everyone. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Who is Anquam Mahamoud? Tell us more about yourself.
A: I’m Anquam Mahamoud, also known as Deeqa. I was born in San Diego but grew up in South Side Minneapolis after my mother relocated us in 1998. She made the move for a more affordable cost of living and a better education system. As a single mother working overnight shifts in a factory and the [for the] Postal Service, she aimed to provide my three brothers and me with better opportunities and quality education. Being the second oldest and the only girl, I took on responsibilities early on, caring for my younger brothers and managing household duties.

Wanting to alleviate my mother’s financial burden, I started working part-time at 15, earning $5.15 an hour. I used my earnings to cover groceries, school clothes, and supplies for my younger siblings. At this point, it became clear to me that affordable housing was necessary for promoting homeownership and fair wages for all. No child should have to sacrifice their childhood to support their family financially.

My mother emphasized the significance of education for a brighter future, not only for us but also for future generations. She relocated us to Eagan to ensure we had access to better educational opportunities. That was her own way of being an advocate. When I entered college, we returned to south Minneapolis. I successfully graduated from St. Catherine with a degree in psychology.

After graduating in 2012, I faced challenges securing a job right away. A year of unemployment led me to consider applying at local retailers. However, on the very day I decided to submit those applications, I received a call from MNsure.

I started my journey at MNsure in the call center, handling calls from greater Minnesota. It opened my eyes to the difficulties individuals in the Iron Range faced, struggling to submit online applications with dial-up internet. I also heard stories from people whose quality of life was at risk because their insurance didn’t cover necessary procedures or services.

These experiences reinforced my belief that no one should feel powerless due to choosing an insurance plan that falls short in covering future health needs. I strongly advocate for accessible universal health care, believing that the government can take steps to ensure everyone has the health care they need.

In my current position within the administration of a substance treatment center and mental health provider, I directly interact with community members who are grappling with addiction and residing in encampments. Through these experiences, I’ve come to recognize that uplifting our community requires a multifaceted approach. It demands a comprehensive transformation that addresses interconnected issues at their roots, providing holistic support to those in need.

Q: What inspired you to run for the Minnesota House 62B seat?

A: I’ve chosen to run for the MN House 62B seat, driven by a deep desire to make a positive impact in my community. While opportunities to run for other positions arose before, I focused on advocacy, undergoing training with Isaiah, and participating in their leadership development program. Working with Isaiah exposed me to diverse perspectives, highlighting the challenges our country faces and emphasizing the importance of authentic representation for systematic change.

Now, I’m running because I believe I’m prepared to shoulder the responsibility and confident in my ability to effectively serve the community. My experience in implementing the Affordable Care Act for the state has equipped me with the skills needed to address the issues our community is facing. I am determined to bring about the changes that our community needs and desires in the House.

Q: What specific issues do you plan to prioritize if elected?

A: If elected, my primary focus will be on guaranteeing that every member of our community has access to essential services crucial to their well-being and success. Foremost among my priorities is championing the implementation of universal health care, as nobody should face the dilemma of picking between their health and financial stability.

Moreover, I will exert unwavering efforts to guarantee that our education system delivers quality education to all, irrespective of ZIP code or socioeconomic status. This means advocating for fair and equitable funding, providing robust support for teachers, and investing in programs that cater to the diverse needs of our students.

Additionally, if elected as state representative, I pledge to prioritize economic development in our community. I want to create an economy that favors everyone instead of the wealthy. I will keep my focus on job creation, supporting small businesses, and, most of all, implementing policies that promote workers’ rights, fair wages, and overall economic stability for working families.

Q: Explain more what you mean by implementing universal health care. Would that be an expansion of MinnesotaCare? What groups are falling through the cracks now? 

A: Health care is a basic human right. In the richest country on Earth, nobody should worry about attaining or paying for the health care they need. I believe that your health care should not be dependent upon employment, income, or immigration status. Universal care would look like a health care for all or single-payer health care system like the Minnesota Health Plan proposed by DFL Senator John Marty such that no one suffers financial hardship by seeking care, plain and simple.

This would ensure that dental care, prescription drugs, optometry, mental health services, chemical dependency treatment, medical equipment and supplies, home care services, and nursing home care is covered. 

Deductibles, premiums, prescription drug prices, and out-of-pocket costs are high and out of control, leading to our residents not being able to afford their care. Those that are most likely to fall through the cracks are low-income households, Black, Indigenous and Latine communities — and these residents are also most likely to report “forgone care.” It is these communities that stand to benefit most from such a model. 

Q: What is one example of a targeted initiative or policy you would support to address the needs of underserved communities in your district?

A: Some of our most underserved community members are our unhoused neighbors. I think we all can agree that no one chooses this path, and there are huge barriers that manifest when working towards housing someone who is chronically homeless. We need sustained, targeted funding in this area and people who understand these challenges in St. Paul; I work with our unhoused neighbors in rehabilitative mental health and substance use disorder treatment. We meet residents where they are and together we dismantle barriers to housing, recovery, and health access.

I would like to see us fund local, culturally specific providers; deeply affordable, low-barrier housing and intentional shelter space like a Minneapolis tiny indoor village (Avivo Village) on the South Side; and work closely with the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County to bring these to fruition in a safe and collaborative way. This will bring healing, care, and understanding to our communities.

I also have heard a strong desire to close Smith Foundry in East Phillips, and allow for a just transition for its workers. I support a targeted funding initiative to buy out this polluter of one of our most diverse working-class residential neighborhoods as well as legislation that would give more tools for cities to address these types of actors in the future. 

Q: What is an issue where you would reach across the aisle if elected? 

A: Climate change is the greatest threat of our time, and quite frankly we do not have time for arguing about the science — which is backed by nearly all climate scientists and the entire academic community. I feel it is crucial, however, that DFL legislators work across the aisle to bring these immediate, existential concerns to both Republican allies and even deniers alike. In doing so, we can make sure we are working as one to pass things like the broadly popular “Prove It First” legislation so we protect the Boundary Waters from toxic polluters and keep us on track to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 in the state.

Every Minnesotan, no matter the party, wants clean water and clean air. Uniting around this issue is of critical importance. The lives of our kids and future generations depend on it. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect age for Anquam Mahamoud.


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