The Republican Party of Minnesota announced Wednesday that it's endorsing a Somali-American for a seat in the state Legislature for the first time.
Abdimalik Askar will carry the Republican Party’s endorsement in his bid to win DFLer Phyllis Kahn's seat in House District 60B in Minneapolis.
Askar is a Dinkytown resident who has lived in the city for two decades. He came to Minnesota in 1993, and worked as a cab driver and dishwasher. Now an assistant director for Best Academy East school in Minneapolis, he aims to serve as a role model for children in the district.
“I’ve worked hard, so it’s time that I work for Minnesota,” Askar said. “I’m advocating for school choices, I’m advocating for family values, and also for promoting diversity.”
While he admitted that many in the city’s Somali-American community are more aligned with the DFL, Askar said he shares more values with Republicans. A party spokesperson confirmed that Askar is also the first Muslim to be endorsed for a legislative seat by the Republican Party of Minnesota.
"Republicans always are for freedom for religion," said Askar. "My colleagues in the DFL want to run away from the religion. We wanted to keep faith and family values and [make] the community stronger."
The district has historically been won by Democrats. In the last election in 2012, the Republican candidate received only 21 percent of the vote. That voting history doesn't deter Askar.
“I’ll meet with the people individually; I’ll knock on doors,” Askar said. “Sometimes it doesn’t matter about who you represent or the differences with the Republican Party -- it’s the person.”
The Republican Party of Minnesota recently moved its headquarters to the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, close to the district and the largest Somali-American population in the Twin Cities metro area.
“It is exciting for Republicans to endorse someone from the Somali community, but more importantly, he would represent his district so well,” Chairman Keith Downey said in a statement. "[H]e stands strongly for the American Dream and the values of his community "
Kahn has served 21 terms in the state House of Representatives and was first elected to the seat in 1972. Another Somali-American candidate, Minneapolis school board member Mohamud Noor, is challenging Kahn for the DFL endorsement.
A scuffle at the DFL caucus in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood forced the DFL Party to reschedule the caucus. Its endorsing convention for the seat will take place April 5 at DeLaSalle High School.