From donning a hijab on Capitol Hill to LGBT representation, a look at Minnesota’s firsts this election

Published 8:48 pm Thursday, November 8, 2018

By Stephen MontemayorMinneapolis Star Tribune


First former refugee sent to Congress. First openly gay U.S. House member from Minnesota. First Muslim elected to a statewide office in Minnesota. First Native ever elected lieutenant governor nationwide.

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Minnesota voters ushered in a wave of firsts Tuesday as Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party enjoyed broad statewide victories, fueled by success in the suburbs and featuring an increasingly diverse set of candidates. The Republican Party did best in the state’s more rural areas, mirroring nationwide electoral shifts.

“We have a party based on values of love, respect, transparency, accountability — basic ideas all wrapped up in the simple idea that everybody counts and everybody matters,” U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the Democrat elected attorney general, said in his victory speech Tuesday night. Ellison, who was the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, in 2006, now boasts that same distinction for a statewide political office in Minnesota.

In at least one area, Minnesota politics did not conform to national trends: the DFL took control of the state House but the Republicans still lead the state Senate, making Minnesota the only state in the country with different parties controlling its two legislative chambers. It’s the first time that only one state nationwide has held that distinction in more than a century.

Here’s a look at some of the history made on Election Day in Minnesota.


A first in the Fifth, again

Just two years after Ilhan Omar made national waves by becoming the country’s first Somali-American elected to a state Legislature, the 36-year-old Minneapolis Democrat danced with family and supporters on Tuesday as she notched yet another historic win.

“I stand here before you tonight as your congresswoman-elect with many firsts behind my name,” Omar told supporters at a victory party in Minneapolis.

Omar will be the first former refugee ever elected to Congress, the state’s first female congresswoman of color and the first U.S. representative to wear a hijab on Capitol Hill. She will join Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib as the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress. Omar won the safely Democratic Fifth Congressional District after serving one term in the Legislature.

Omar will replace Ellison, who defeated Republican Doug Wardlow in a hotly contested, and oftentimes bitter, race. Ellison becomes Minnesota’s first person of color and its first Muslim to serve as state attorney general. An Ellison spokesman noted that, outside of the state Supreme Court, Ellison is also the first black Minnesotan elected statewide.


‘Rainbow Wave’

Minnesota also elected its first openly gay member of Congress when voters in the Second Congressional District chose Democrat Angie Craig over Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis. Craig ran among a record 391 openly LGBTQ candidates on ballots nationwide this year, according to data compiled by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, a political action committee that dubbed the movement a “Rainbow Wave.”