The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 6, 2013

Somali-American wins Minneapolis council seat

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Voters in Minneapolis have sent a Somali-American to their City Council for the first time, a sign of the immigrant community's growing strength in the city.

Abdi Warsame took 64 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election, well ahead of incumbent Robert Lilligren.

Both the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio reported that Warsame will become the highest-ranking elected Somali-American in the U.S. when he takes office.

Warsame, 35, left Somalia as a child and spent much of his life in England. He moved to Minneapolis in 2006 and heads a tenant association in a Minneapolis high-rise that is home to some 4,000 East Africans, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul area is home to the highest concentration of Somali immigrants in the United States.

"I'm an American who happens to be Somali. ... This is my base and I'm proud of that," Warsame said during a celebration to watch election returns. "But I'm here to represent everyone in my ward. If I don't, I will have failed."

He got involved in politics in 2011, working on the unsuccessful state Senate campaign of Mohamud Noor.

Warsame said he wants to address the concerns facing his community, including jobs, roads, housing and young people who need mentors.

He built a ground operation of hundreds of East African volunteers. They mobilized about 1,500 supporters to cast early ballots, giving them a significant edge going into Election Day.

Lilligren tried to show that he could connect with East African voters even if he didn't share the same cultural background. Voter turnout in the ward increased significantly since the 2009 race, and Warsame won with three times as many votes as Lilligren got in his last election.

Seven new members will be sworn in next year to the City Council.

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