MINNEAPOLIS -- A local school board member prevailed over a longtime incumbent state legislator Wednesday night in a heavily attended precinct caucus.
As a result, Mohamud Noor will send 28 delegates to the Senate District 60 convention April 5, while veteran lawmaker Phyllis Kahn will have 15 delegates. Delegates at that meeting will have an opportunity to bestow the DFL party's endorsement on one of them in the District 60B race.
Wednesday's caucus, which drew 421 delegates and 150 observers to the University of Minnesota's Coffman Union, was a makeup session for a Feb. 4 caucus that ended abruptly when an argument turned into a fist fight at the Brian Coyle Community Center.
The re-do was supervised by a large group of party volunteers, and people outside of the district ran the meeting to promote neutrality. A large contingent of uniformed police and plain clothes officers were also on hand to guard against any violence.
"Our responsibility as a state party is to make sure they can exercise that right, exercise that responsibility free of any intimidation, free of violence," Ken Martin, the DFL state chairman, told KARE.
"There were some that asked me not to reconvene this caucus for a lot of different reasons, but how could I say no when you look out at this crowd? How can you disenfranchise so many people who want to have a voice?"
Rep. Kahn, a retired University of Minnesota biophysics professor, won her first election in 1972 and has been reelected every two years since then. District 60B, her political turf, has evolved over that 42 years, both geographically and demographically.
It's now home to a large east African population, most of whom share Noor's Somali heritage and language. Noor's campaign shuttled two bus loads of supporters from the Coyle Center to Coffman union.
"When I first ran I printed some of my ads in Polish and Russian, because there were voters in northeast Minneapolis who didn't speak or read English that well," Kahn recalled.
She pointed out that Abdi Warsame, who in November became the first Somali American ever elected to the Minneapolis City Council, supports her quest for a 22nd term.
"I have Somali supporters too, because they know I've served this district well. And the seniority I have is very helpful to them, and will continue to very helpful to them, assuming I'm re-elected."
In his speech to delegates Noor hinted strongly that District 60B needs to be represented by a Somali face at the Capitol.
"It's not the time for others to decide the future for us. Our voice is ours we have to decide for ourselves."
He also stressed the need for more state investment in public schools and other educational opportunities for children in urban immigrant communities.
"They deserve to get the American dream as we did, and we have to stand with them," Noor told delegates.
'I'm asking you to stand with me. It's time for a change!"
Before the caucus Noor had not said whether he would abide by the district convention endorsement, or would instead reserve the option of running in the August DFL primary.
When asked if she'd abide by the district convention's choice, Kahn said, "I have always abided by the endorsement and I expect to get the endorsement."