Who's on the DFL primary ballot in the 5th? Meet the candidates

Compilation of Congressional District 5 candidates.
A photo compilation of Jamal Abdulahi, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Frank Nelson Drake, Ilhan Omar, and Patricia Torres Ray.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Voters in Minneapolis and neighboring suburbs will elect a new member of Congress this year. The 5th Congressional District seat has been in Democratic hands since 1963, which means the August DFL primary will likely decide who goes to Washington.

Here's a look at the five leading DFL candidates running for the seat.

Jamal Abdulahi

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

Jamal Abdulahi sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio
Jamal Abdulahi sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio in Golden Valley July 10, 2018.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Age: 42

Bio: Abdulahi was born in a farm town in central Somalia, son of drought refugees. His mother died in childbirth when he was young. Abdulahi was raised by extended family, and came to the United States in 1992. He initially lived in San Diego, moved to Marshall, Minn., in 1994 and moved to Minneapolis in 1997 to go to college. He and his wife have four daughters, ages 7 to 13.

Education: Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Argosy University. Former U of M policy fellow.

Work experience: Lockheed Martin engineer, United Technologies and Ingersoll Rand manager. Founder of a startup for medical clinic software.

Political and public experience: Founder of Somali Student Association at the U of M; worked on 2004 John Edwards campaign and later as a community organizer; elected twice to state DFL executive committee; ran for Rosemount City Council when living in Rosemount in 2014.

Main issues: Abdulahi said his biggest issue is health care. Abdulahi said the federal government needs to look closely at the relationship between Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare and come up with a legitimate alternative to employer-sponsored health care. He said public housing is a key factor in reducing poverty and disparities and that the United States needs to radically reform immigration.

Why he is running: "I bring two types of experience, one from the private sector, as an engineering leader, the other as a community organizer, who's actually well-versed with how to make legislation, how to get results and get things done for the residents. I think these two things fused together is what is going to deliver for the people of the 5th Congressional District."

What you might not know about him: Abdulahi's father was a soldier drafted in the war with Ethiopia and never returned. His grandfather was a local staff member for the American Embassy in Mogadishu, who helped bring the family to the U.S.

Frank Drake

Frank Nelson Drake sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio
Frank Nelson Drake sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio in Golden Valley on July 10, 2018.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Age: 59

Bio: Born in Minneapolis, Drake is the son of an insurance salesman and a homemaker and interior designer. He is the youngest of three children. He's been married for 32 years and has an adult son and daughter.

Education: Minneapolis Southwest High School and the University of Santa Clara; bachelor's degree in French.

Work experience: Real estate agent since 1984, handling residential and commercial properties; real estate investor before the Great Recession of 2008.

Political and public experience: A relative newcomer to politics, Drake ran against DFL U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison as a Republican in 2016.

Main issues: Drake wants to end foreign military engagements in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. He supports a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, as long as it is built with Minnesota taconite. Drake supports legalizing marijuana, expanding vocational training programs and wants to restrict foreign aid from going to countries that don't recognize the rights of their gay and lesbian citizens.

Why he is running: "We are at a point in our history, very similar to 1860, when Lincoln was elected and had to be brought in the back door of the White House. Everyone hates this president from the Democratic side, and it doesn't have to be this way. ... Let's be neutral on these issues. Let's be prosperous. Let's get the money coming back to Minnesota. We don't have to refight the 2016 election. ... We do not have to take to violence in the streets."

What you might not know about him: Drake grew up in part in the one-time Minneapolis home of Isadore Blumenfeld, better known as alleged mobster Kid Cann. Drake is also a great grandson of B.F. Nelson, a Minneapolis pioneer and one-time University of Minnesota regent.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Margaret Anderson Kelliher sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio in Golden Valley on July 10, 2018.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Age: 50

Bio: Anderson Kelliher is the youngest of six children born to a dairy farm family outside of Mankato, Minn. She graduated from Mankato West and has lived in the Twin Cities and Congressional District 5 since 1990. She is married and has an adult daughter and son.

Education: Bachelor's degree, Gustavus Adolphus College; Master of Public Administration, Harvard.

Work experience: Longtime legislative staffer; former state representative and Speaker of the Minnesota House; president of the Minnesota High Tech Association since 2011.

Political and public experience: Activist in 1980s farm protests; legislative staffer in the Minnesota House; elected to Minnesota House in 1998; became speaker in 2007 and ran for governor in 2010 but lost to Mark Dayton in the DFL primary.

Main issues: Anderson Kelliher said she wants to challenge the roll back of the Affordable Care Act and push for universal health care for everyone in the U.S. Protecting entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. She said workforce development, particularly STEM education, is critical for economic growth, as is more federal investment in transportation and transit. She wants a path to citizenship for so-called "Dreamers" and DACA recipients.

Why she is running: "We are at a crossroads. ... People are really interested in having someone who has both experience standing up to tough leaders on the other side, and I did that time and time again with (then-governor) Tim Pawlenty. They also want someone who knows how to get things done ... someone who will really see the entire district, the suburbs and the city, and I think I can do that."

What you might not know about her: She is a former State 4H president and was once a Dairy Princess in the Midwest Dairy Association's Minnesota Dairy Princess Program.

Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio.
Ilhan Omar sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio in Golden Valley on July 10, 2018.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Age: 35

Bio: Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Omar is the youngest of seven children. Her father was a teacher, her mother worked for the Somali oil ministry, but died when Omar was young. Her family fled the Somali civil war and escaped to Kenya in 1991. She came to the United States in 1995, settled first in Virginia, and then moved to Minnesota in 1997. She is married and has three children.

Education: Graduated from Edison High School; associate's degree in business from National American University; bachelor's degree in political science from North Dakota State University.

Work experience: Former nutrition educator with University of Minnesota Extension; office and factory work; Minneapolis City Council policy aide and first-term legislator.

Political and public experience: Omar challenged and beat one of the longest-serving members of the state Legislature, Phyllis Kahn; she served as policy director at Women Organizing Women Network.

Main issues: Omar lists fighting economic disparity as one of her top issues and says she'd also pursue universal health care by expanding Medicare to everyone. She wants immigration reform, to make the system sensitive to the issues that face refugees and asylum seekers. She also wants to see criminal justice reform that addresses racial disparities and institute campaign reform that will make elections more transparent.

Why she's running: "The 5th District needs a champion, someone who has a combination of a lived experience and work experience ... someone who will show up not only as a vote we can count on, but will continue to organize and mobilize so that we can get the kind of policies that are going to have a positive impact on our lives."

What you might not know about her: Omar has among the widest work experience in the race. She's been an office cleaner, a cashier at Target, worked on an Arden Hills assembly line, a night shift at the Roseville post office and a security guard in downtown Minneapolis, as well as call centers for Target and Best Buy.

Patricia Torres Ray

Patricia Torres Ray sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio.
Patricia Torres Ray sits for a portrait at KARE 11 studio in Golden Valley on July 10, 2018.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Age: 54

Bio: Born in Colombia, Torres Ray is the second youngest of eight children, daughter of a factory owner and inventor. She met and married a University of Minnesota exchange student in Colombia and came to Minnesota in 1987. She is married with two adult sons.

Education: Went to school and college in Colombia; bachelor's degree in urban studies from the University of Minnesota; master's in public policy from the U's Humphrey Institute.

Work experience: Guardian ad litem, first ombudsperson for families in the state, Department of Human Services child services program administrator.

Political and public experience: Left DHS to run for open state Senate seat in 2006, beat seven others for DFL endorsement; former Senate Education Committee chair.

Main issues: Torres Ray wants to implement immigration reform, including demilitarizing the southern border, addressing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status, and replacing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She wants the federal government to take a comprehensive approach to addressing climate change and she wants to hold back federal efforts to privatize education at the expense of public education.

Why she is running: "I have a 30-year record of work and commitment to impacting the people in the 5th district, and impacting the most vulnerable people in our state and country ... and I have a record of bringing the average citizen into these tables of power. Year after year at the Legislature my work has been constituency work and making sure every citizen realizes their own power.

What you might not know about her: Torres Ray was in law school in Colombia when she married and moved to the U.S. She didn't speak English when she arrived in Minnesota and went to work at a factory that printed bottle labels.

Editor's note: A sixth DFL candidate, State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, is also on the primary ballot, but he said he is no longer seeking the seat.