Thursday, November 8, 2018
Election 2018: Somali Refugee Elected to Congress, Afghan Refugee Elected to New Hampshire House of Representatives
Born in Somalia, Ilhan Omar fled war with her family and grew up partly in Dadaab, Kenya, one of the world’s largest refugee camps. Photo: Reuters/Eric Miller
Somali, Muslim, refugee, woman: Ilhan Omar made history in all those categories last night as voters backed her bid to the US Congress. The 36-year-old Democrat candidate was resoundingly elected with over 78% of the vote in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, joining the surge of fresh new candidates who helped the Democrats take back the House. Her Republican opponent Jennifer Zielinski got only 22% of the vote. Her election was among many firsts in the high-stakes midterm polls, including the victory of an openly gay governor in Colorado, and the first Native American women elected to Congress from Kansas and New Mexico.
Born in Somalia, Ilhan fled war with her family and grew up partly in Dadaab, one of the world’s largest refugee camps located in Kenya. She moved to the US with her family in 1995, aged 14. In 2016, she became the first Somali-American woman elected to state legislature in the US. The mother of three then decided to run for Congress this year after Keith Ellison, an African-American Muslim and deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, vacated the seat to run for attorney general in Minnesota.
In this Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018 photo, Safiya Wazir holds her daughter, Aaliyah, behind one of her campaign signs in Concord, N.H. Holly Ramer / AP
And in New Hampshire, Democrat Safiya Wazir is the first refugee ever elected to New Hampshire's House of Representatives. Her family fled Afghanistan and the Taliban 21 years ago, and spent 10 years in a refugee camp before coming to the United States.