Midterms usher in diverse change

Kristian Evans, Senior News Editor

After months of high stakes coverage from races at all levels of government, the 2018 midterm elections saw a wave of diverse candidates triumph to represent the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in a number of different positions.

State Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was highly favored to win the heavily democratic fifth Congressional District became the first Somali-American elected to federal office. Omar, who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia, campaigned on a number of platforms that have come to define the “progressive” wing of the Democratic party including a single-payer healthcare system.

Omar will replace Keith Ellison, the representative of the district from 2007 until 2018 who was victorious in his bid to become the State Attorney General after sitting AG Lori Swanson decided to run for governor.

In the race to replace Omar as State Representative, Mohamud Noor emerged the winner in State House District 60B, defeating Joseph Patiño with 86% of the vote. Noor, the director of the Confederation of Somali Community, won the race after first seeking the office in 2016 against Omar.

In perhaps the most surprising result of the night, Dave Hutchinson, a Metro Transit officer, defeated Rick Stanek in the County Sheriff race. Stanek’s support of both President Trump’s immigration agenda and cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) brought the race into the national headlines. Stanek, who has held the position for twelve years, was defeated by around 2,400 votes according to the Minnesota Secretary of State website.

Stanek has the ability to request a recount, though his campaign would be required to finance it. If the results hold, Hutchinson, who garnered a late endorsement from Hillary Clinton, would become the first openly gay County Sheriff in county history.

Other local races saw an ousting of establishment candidates as Angela Conely defeated 27-year incumbent Peter McLaughlin for a spot on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners. Conley will join Irene Fernando, who won an open seat in a separate Hennepin Commissioner race as the first two women of color to sit on the County Board.

County Attorney Mike Freeman was one county incumbent that managed to hold onto his seat. Despite a challenge from Mark Haase, who was endorsed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and a number of prominent criminal justice reform organizations and activists, Freeman emerged victorious by 9% of the vote.

While both candidates had campaigned on similar issues, Freeman’s decision not to charge police officers in the shooting of Thurman Blevins as well as a “Star Tribune” investigation into the lack of charges being brought on sexual assault cases in the county did not end up costing him the race.

Statewide races favored democrats as Tim Walz and Peggy Flanagan won the race for Governor and Lieutenant Governor respectively. Flanagan becomes the highest-ranking Native American in public office. Minnesota’s two Senate races were won by incumbents as well, with Amy Klobuchar easily overtaking State Rep. Jim Newberger and Tina Smith beating out State Senator Karin Housley.

This article was originally published in the Nov. 9, 2018 issue. 

Ilhan Omar  rallys at a pre-election rally Photo from Ilhan For Congress Facebook page.