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Minnesota House Seat 60B is no Minneapolis City Council Ward 6

Mohamud Noor and Rep. Phyllis Kahn will be competing for Minnesota House Seat 60B in November. The similarities end there.

The two are different candidates in all other aspects. Kahn, 76, is a veteran of Minnesota politics with more than 40 years of experience. She has beaten other challengers in the past. She won 77 percent of the votes in the last election.

Noor, 36, has held various government jobs, including an information-management position with the state of Minnesota. He is required by federal statue to resign from his state job after announcing his intentions for partisan office. He is the current interim executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community. Noor ran for the Senate in the same district and narrowly lost. He has been recently appointed to fill the school-board vacancy caused by an unexpected death of Hussein Samatar.

The challenges each must overcome to prevail in November are immense — and differ as much as their backgrounds. The district includes Cedar Riverside, parts of southeast and northeast, as well as the University of Minnesota main campus. The core constituencies are seniors, Somalis and students, in no particular order.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn

Phyllis Kahn established a reputation as an avid supporter of the arts and has a reformist mindset toward the gambling industry as a legislator. She played a leading role in the Legacy Amendment, which included allocating part of the state sales tax to fund arts, heritage and preservation projects. She was been a leading voice in the debate to put a casino at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The core constituencies

Although these are important issues for the state, neither of them directly addresses core constituencies’ priorities. The core constituencies have different priorities among themselves.

A chief complaint among students at the University of Minnesota has been rising tuition cost. It was a problem when I was student, and it continues to be one. The campus community is on edge over increasing security incidents. Kahn has presented no specific plan in her role as legislator to address student priorities.

Seniors in the district struggle with housing. For example, Somali senior citizens in Cedar Riverside receive rental support from the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. They have been complaining about a pesky policy that prevents them from having an extended leave to visit their relatives in Africa. Rep. Karen Clark from neighboring district in the south was making inquiries on their behalf, not Phyllis Kahn, in the 2013 session.

Kahn had been absent in the other two critical issues of K-12 education and health care for the Somali community. When a group of Somali community leaders came to the Capitol with secondary-education concerns during the 2013 session, Rep. Jim Davnie from another neighboring district in the south led the charge to expand Collaborative Urban Education Program (CUE) to train Somali- speaking teachers, not Phyllis Kahn. Rep. Diane Loeffler from a neighboring district in the north had been more engaged in efforts to promote adult mental health and children’s autism as part of larger effort to build a healthier community.

Kahn points to unparalleled seniority and early support of Abdi Warsame for Minneapolis City Council but recent legislative deliverables of the role speak louder and clearer to constituencies than political mechanics.

Noor’s challenges

Jamal Abdulahi

Noor has challenges of his own despite great turnout from the Somali community at the announcing event. Harvesting sufficient votes, organizational challenges and resources top the list.

First and foremost, Minnesota House Seat 60B is no Minneapolis City Council Ward 6, where a concentrated Somali vote made an enormous difference in Warsame’s victory over an incumbent who held the seat 12 years. Noor must appeal to the majority community en masse or stitch together a coalition to make up for the difference.

Noor also must overcome organizational challenges. There are less than 60 days before precinct caucuses and there is no visible organizational infrastructure to get delegates to the convention and perhaps effectively end the race.

Some of Noor’s ardent supporters from the last campaign have not come out in support, suggesting a lack of enthusiasm in the current campaign. It remains to be seen how some of the unions — such as MAPE that represents state employees, the Minneapolis Teachers Federation and other core DFL groups like Take Action — deploy their resources.

Mohamud Noor has been unfairly attacked by critics for advocating against the amendment to ban same-gender marriage in Minnesota. Critics have lit-dropped at mosques during Friday prayers attacking him. Facebook battles have been raging since speculation of his running started. Noor has yet to provide a clear response to these critics.

Battle could go beyond convention

Others in DFL circles are hesitant and probably won’t pledge support until the endorsement convention because of concerns over his decision to pursue the vacant school-board seat. The concern here is lack of milestone-driven strategy.

The battle between Mohamud Noor and Phyllis Kahn could go beyond the endorsement convention. It could be a drawn-out fight with or without an endorsement.

Ultimately one of them will prevail. Mohamud Noor prevailing would add momentum to the rising political stock of the Somali community, while Phyllis Kahn prevailing would dash the feeling in the Somali community of being in the zone.

Jamal Abdulahi is a state director with Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) and chairs the Somali Caucus of the DFL. He is currently a policy fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. He focuses on political development of New Americans. He can be reached at He can also be followed @fuguni.


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Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/02/2014 - 10:33 am.


    This article seems to be confused about the election. It talks about an election in November, yet it goes on to discuss the endorsement process which is only relevant to candidates seeking their party’s endorsement. What we seem to be talking about is a primary battle, to be decided in August, rather than a general election battle to be decided in November.

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 01/02/2014 - 11:25 am.

    Very nice article, stating important considerations in this electoral battle. Especially noteworthy is the palpable attempt at fairness to each candidate, looking at the pluses and minuses they individually have.

    Mr. Noor might want to consider whether his running for every political office that presents itself is a productive strategy, for him or for anyone, and whether he can reach out to represent more than the Somali community.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/02/2014 - 05:36 pm.


      My reaction was that this was just a cheap hit piece on Kahn. When the summary includes statements like “Kahn has presented no specific plan” and “Kahn had been absent,” while also stating “Mohamud Noor has been unfairly attacked by critics” and “Kahn prevailing would dash the feeling in the Somali community of being in the zone,” fairness is not exactly what comes to mind.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/02/2014 - 12:53 pm.


    Anyone at Minnpost want to help with the confusion about the election date? About whether Noor is seeking the endorsement or running independently in the fall? The article is pretty confusing as it stands.

  4. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/02/2014 - 06:48 pm.

    Abdulahi and Noor

    Just for fun I googled “Jamal Abdulahi and Mohamud Noor” and this came up:

    Its an article about Noor getting appointed to the school board in November, and contains a picture of Noor and Abdulahi together.

    I don’t know what their relationship is, but given the slanted tone of this piece and that picture, I have to wonder why MinnPost is having Abdulahi write an article about this race.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 01/02/2014 - 09:57 pm.

      Community Voices

      MinnPost didn’t “have” Abdulahi write anything.

      This article is a self-submission from the author to the “Community Voices” section of MinnPost, the description of which reads “Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. MinnPost welcomes submissions on current topics of broad interest in Minnesota.”

      Now you might make an argument that it would have been upfront of Mr. Abdulahi to self-disclose any meaningful relationship that could have influenced what he wrote. But an opinion piece not written by a journalist employed by the publication doesn’t carry the same kind of obligation for disclosure that you seem to be concerned by.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/03/2014 - 06:14 am.

        Fact check

        Is that why the article wasn’t fact checked?

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 01/03/2014 - 08:05 am.

          Sounds like a question for the MinnPost staff

          Is it customary to require fact-checking for opinion pieces? (beyond that which occurs as a matter of course by the commenters on the article)

          • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/03/2014 - 09:25 am.


            I don’t really know. But this article is confused on it’s face. Why would Minnpost consider an article that talks about a November race for an intra party conflict that will be resolved in an August primary?

      • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/03/2014 - 03:19 pm.

        Community voices

        Pat, I don’t disagree with anything you say. I guess I just thought Minnpost would screen cheap political hit pieces from its submissions. That whole higher standards in journalism bit.

  5. Submitted by Jamal Abdulahi on 01/03/2014 - 08:38 am.


    There is going to be an endorsement convention then a primary follow by a general election. A lot could happen between now and then but there is always a possibility the race continuing until general election in November. Considering where we sit today, neither candidate is going to concede easily. If you disagree with this, you’re entitled to your opinion not to your own facts.
    For those of you searching for relationships, the author has worked with both candidates in various capacities immaterial to views express here and you could perhaps find a picture with Representative Phyllis Kahn if you search hard enough. But I urge you to consider the totality of the argument not specific statement unfavorable one candidate or another.

    • Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/03/2014 - 03:21 pm.


      The totality of the argument was that is was extremely unfair and one-sided. Just an embarrassment all around

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 01/03/2014 - 11:40 am.


    “If you disagree with this, you’re entitled to your opinion not to your own facts.”

    I wasn’t the author of the piece. And what I wrote was largely a matter of editorial criticism, not a statement of facts.

    “Mohamud Noor and Rep. Phyllis Kahn will be competing for Minnesota House Seat 60B in November. The similarities end there.”

    This is one of the author’s statement of facts. I don’t know whether it’s true or false. Does the author? And if so, what does he mean? Is he saying there will be a write in campaign? Is he saying one of the candidates will run as a Republican? It seems to me, in fact, that the author is making an assertion about something he couldn’t possibly know. The author seems to have his own personal facts that others aren’t supposed to question.

  7. Submitted by rolf westgard on 01/10/2014 - 05:54 pm.

    Phylllis Kahn

    Rep Kahn is one of the very people in the MN legislature with a background in science. She would be a major loss if not elected.

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