Strong election night for African immigrant candidates in Minnesota primary

The above candidates made it through the Minnesota primary election held on August 11, 2020. (Clockwise from upper left) Omar Fateh, Henry Momanyi, Esther Agbaje, Sizi Goyah, Alfreda Daniel, Benjamin Osemenam. Photos: Courtesy Candidates
The above candidates made it through the Minnesota primary election held on August 11, 2020. (Clockwise from upper left) Omar Fateh, Henry Momanyi, Esther Agbaje, Sizi Goyah, Alfreda Daniel, Benjamin Osemenam. Photos: Courtesy Candidates

It was a good night to be an African immigrant candidate in Minnesota’s primary election on Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar was able to stave off a strong primary challenge from Antone Melton-Meaux to emerge tops with 57 percent of the votes to the challenger’s 39 percent. The victory positions her for an expected win in the November 3 election in the heavily Democratic district. We covered her win in a separate story last night.

Minnesota Senate

In the race for the Minnesota Senate in District 62, Omar Fateh, born of Somali parents, edged out Jeff Hayden, one of only two Black state senators. Fateh received 54 percent of the vote to the incumbent’s 45 percent. Fateh, who was the DFL endorsed candidate, is expected to win in November, which will maintain the number of black senators at two. He will become the first Somali American state senator in Minnesota. In Senate District 59, Bobby Jo Champion who serves with Jeff Hayden as the only two black senators defeated Suleiman Isse, who had hoped to join Fateh as the other Somali American state senator. Isse only managed to get 23 percent of the vote to Senator Bobby Jo Champion’s whopping 77 percent.

Minnesota House of Representatives

Harvard educated Nigerian American lawyer Esther Agbaje emerged victorious in District 59B defeating incumbent Raymond Dehn. She garnered 47 percent of the vote to Rep. Dehn’ s 42 percent  This is Agbaje’s first run for office and was the endorsed DFL candidate in the primary.

With her expected win in November in the heavily Democratic district, she will become the first Nigerian American elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives and will add to the number of the POCI Caucus.

Minneapolis City Council Race – Sixth Ward

In the special election for the Sixth Ward in Minneapolis, results will not be known for at least another two days because the city uses Ranked Choice Voting where voters rank their choice of candidates. There were eleven candidates in the race, seven of them Somali Americans. An outright winner is declared only when one candidate is the first choice of more than 50 percent of the voters.

As of the time of this writing, Jamal Osman was the leader in terms of first choice votes with 29 percent of the voters choosing him as their first choice.

Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner AK Hassan was leading with those voters that chose him as their second choice at 21 percent.

AK Hassan was also the top choice for those who ranked him as their third choice. We will update this story with the winner once announced.

Brooklyn Park City Council

Four African immigrants were contesting in three different districts in Tuesday’s primary with all four needing to come out among the top two candidates in their respective districts in order to make it to the November general election.

In the East District, Nigerian American Benjamin Osemenam came in a distant second to the incumbent Lisa Jacobson with 24 percent of the vote to Jacobson’s 55 percent.

In the Central District, an open seat made for an interesting race. Kenyan American Walter Nyabere was eliminated leaving Boyd Morson and Christian Eriksen to move on to the general election. Christian Eriksen was the top vote getter with 44 percent to Boyd Morson’s 36 percent.

In the West District, Kenyan American Henry Momanyi barely made it as he squeaked past Yelena Kurdyumova by just three votes for a ticket to the general election. Momanyi eked out 15.62 percent of the votes to Kurdyumova’s 15.49 percent. Susan Pha, the incumbent they are trying to unseat, hauled in a commanding 68 percent of the vote.

Momanyi will therefore face Pha in the general election. Pha is the first Hmong American elected to the Brooklyn Park City Council.

Brooklyn Center City Council

Unlike Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center is an At-Large Council where if elected you represent the entire city instead of a ward or district within the city.

Seven candidates filed to run in the Tuesday primary with two high profile Liberian American candidates among them. Voters were to choose four to move on to the November general election where the four will fight it out for the two council seats available.

The two Liberian Americans Alfreda Daniels and Sizi Goyah were among the final four that made it. Daniels garnered an impressive 18 percent of the vote while Goyah hauled in 11 percent. The other two candidates are incumbents Marquita Butler and Kris Lawrence-Anderson who received 22 percent and 21 percent of the vote respectively.

There are more African immigrant candidates that will be running in the November election that did not have a primary. Check out our election page for more information.

About Tom Gitaa Gitaa, Editor-in-Chief

Born and raised in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, Tom is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Mshale which has been reporting on the news and culture of African immigrants in the United States since 1995. He has a BA in Business from Metro State University and a Public Leadership Credential from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He was the original host of Talking Drum, the signature current affairs show on the African Broadcasting Network (ABN-America), which was available nationwide in the United States via the Dish Network satellite service. On the show, he interviewed Nobel laureates such as 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner, Professor Wangari Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the peace prize and heads of states. Tom has served and chaired various boards including Global Minnesota (formerly Minnesota International Center), the sixth largest World Affairs Council in the United States. He has previously served as the first Black President of the Board of Directors at Books for Africa. He also serves on the boards of New Vision Foundation and the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium. He has previously served two terms on the board of the United Nations Association. An avid runner, he retired from running full marathons after turning 50 and now only focuses on training for half marathons.

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