MN’s Somalis Inspiring Other Somalis


Numerous Somalis ran for different public offices in Minnesota. Thus far success defined as a victory in the general elections has been limited to Minneapolis' Ward 6. But that hasn't deterred Somalis around the world drawing inspiration from Minnesota's Somalis political engagement.

One such case is Ahmed Hussen. Hussen is running for a seat to represent residents of York and South-Winston in Canada's House of Commons. Hussen was endorsed by the Liberal party in November of 2014.

A member of the House Commons of Canada is roughly equivalent to a member in the U.S. House of Representatives. It's a rough comparison because Canada is not as populace as the U.S. If Hussen prevails in the general election on October 19, 2015, he will represent little over 116,000 people. A U.S. House of Representative represents at least 500,000 people.

According to Canada's census, residents of Hussen’s district are 60% English speaking and live in the bottom quarter of Canada's economy. The remaining 40% are first generation immigrants.

The Somali community in the district is estimated at 5,000 strong. Under Canada’s election law, citizenship is not required to participate in the party endorsement process but it’s required to vote in the general election. Hussen capitalized this by maximizing participation from the Somali community in the primary. Hussen’s campaign anticipates participation from the Somali community to dip in the general election.

Hussen could inspire more Somalis by appealing to wider electoral if he prevails in the general election. Hussen has realistic chance of pulling it off. Alan Tonks of the Liberal party won the district four consecutive elections before retiring in 2011. Hence, partisan support is prevalent in the district. The question remains can Hussen appeal to them and draw them to the polls?

The larger point still remaining is that Somalis around the world are watching Minnesota's Somali community for an inspiration and for lessons learned. A member of Hussen’s campaign staff told me “we’re proud and looking up to Minnesota’s Somali community” underscoring sentiment of many Somalis around the world.

Meanwhile, the reality on the ground for Minnesota's Somalis remains a quest for an electoral breakthrough beyond the Somali community. No place in Minnesota is the Somali vote sufficient to ensure general election success other than Minneapolis' Ward 6. Until there is a breakthrough led by a candidate with an appeal beyond the Somali community, there will be more audacious campaigns with general election victories in short supply.