MINNEAPOLIS -- A well-known conservative blog has raised questions about the marital status of legislative candidate Ilhan Omar, allegations that she vehemently denies.
Omar, a Somali immigrant and rising star in DFL politics, defeated 22-term incumbent Phyllis Kahn and fellow immigrant Mohamud Noor in the Aug. 9 primary. That victory put her on track to become the first Somali American elected to any legislature.
"Tonight we made history!" Omar told an exuberant crowd when the results were final. "It is with gratitude that I pledge to represent you with integrity and humility."
On stage with her at the Kalsan Restaurant in Minneapolis that night was Ahmed Hirsi, the man identified by Minnesota Public Radio as her husband. Hirsi appears on Omar's campaign web site in a family portrait, and lives at the same address as the candidate in the West Bank area of southeast Minneapolis.
But a post by Twin Cities blogger and attorney Scott Johnson in the conservative Power Line blog asserts that Omar in 2009 married a different man. The blog contends the man, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, is Omar's own brother, and that the marriage was solely to help Elmi emigrate from Great Britain to Minnesota.
Michael Howard, a spokesperson for the Omar campaign, told KARE, "As public records show, the allegations made by a conservative blog about Ilhan Omar are false. There will be no further comment from Ilhan Omar's campaign beyond the statement she released Monday."
That statement reads, in part, "A number of baseless, absurd rumors that don't bear repeating have been made recently about my personal life and family. Let me be clear: they are categorically false."
The Power Line story originated with an entry on the SomaliSpot forum. That post has since been deleted, but Johnson posted screen grabs of the SomaliSpot entries as part of his documentation.
Hennepin County records include a marriage certificate indicating Omar and Ahmed Nur Said Elmi were married at the Hennepin County Service Center in Eden Prairie on Feb. 12, 2009. The ceremony was conducted by Pastor Wilecia Harris of Eden Prairie.
A marriage license application from the same date showed that Omar and Elmi lived in Columbia Heights. They checked "no" on the part of the form that asks if the bride and groom are related by blood or adoptions. They swore an oath stating that neither of them had a spouse who was still living.
There are no records on file that would indicate the marriage was dissolved, but it was unclear on Tuesday whether a divorce granted in another state would be reflected in Hennepin County records. The Power Line blog reported that Elmi has since moved to the United Kingdom.
County records also show a marriage license application filed by Omar and Ahmed Abdisalan Aden on Sept. 30, 2002. The couple requested a waiver to the five-day waiting period which was the law at the time in Minnesota.
The waiver form included a handwritten notation, "We have been married by the Muslim Church on May 4, 2002 and have trouble getting housing, insurance and Etc."
There is no marriage certificate on file matching that 2002 marriage license application. That suggests a civil marriage ceremony was never performed.
Updated Omar statement:
On Wednesday Ilhan Omar issued an updated statement explaining the two marriage documents. She said that Ahmed Hirsi and Ahmed Aden are one and the same person, that his last name legally changed to Hirsi when he became a US citizen.
She said she and Hirsi had been together since 2002 in a cultural marriage, and he is the father of her children. And, although they applied for a marriage license later that year, they never tied the knot officially.
Omar said the two of them were separated in 2008 and divorced through their faith traditions.
In 2009 she began a relationship with British citizen Ahmed Elmi, Omar wrote, and that they were actually married. She said they parted ways in 2011 and were divorced through their religion.
"I have yet to legally divorce Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, but am in the process of doing so. Insinuations that Ahmed Nur Said Elmi is my brother are absurd and offensive," Omar wrote.
She said Elmi moved back to England.
"Since 2011, I am happy to say that I have reconciled with Ahmed Hirsi, we have married in our faith tradition and are raising our family together. Like all families, we have had our ups and downs but we are proud to have come through it together."
Omar questions motives
Omar, in her first online statement Monday, questioned the motives of those raising these questions.
"Why are these hateful rumors being circulated?" and went on to say, "I know deeply that the people of District 60B oppose Donald Trump-style misogyny, racism, anti-immigration rhetoric and Islamophobic division.We stand together to build a more prosperous and equitable state."
She said conservatives have targeted her because she was able to put together a successful coalition of Minneapolis residents, college students and immigrants to win the DFL primary in her district. Omar said the focus should be on reaching progressive goals.
Omar spent part of her childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya after her family fled war-torn Somalia. She has worked as a student organizer and community health educator, as wells as serving as a policy aide to Minneapolis City Council member Andrew Johnson.
She hold several college degrees and was a policy fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.