The Latest: Minnesota elects Somali-American lawmaker

Published 8:29 pm Tuesday, November 8, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — The Latest on Election Day in Minnesota. (all times local):

10:20 p.m.

A Republican House candidate who posted “IT’S LYNCHING TIME” on Facebook after President Barack Obama’s 2008 election has won a Blaine legislative seat.

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Nolan West narrowly edged Democratic opponent Susan Witt with all votes counted in the suburban district. His 0.74-point margin is outside the state’s automatic recount trigger.

The seat is comfortable Republican territory but Democrats pounced for a possible upset after the Star Tribune reported on West’s racist remarks over the summer. West lost his job as a House Republican aide but continued campaigning.

House Republicans had largely abandoned West’s campaign after the Star Tribune reported on his racist remarks over the summer. But the GOP-aligned Minnesota Jobs Coalition started airing ads attacking Witt late last week.

8:05 p.m.

Minnesota has elected the nation’s first Somali-American lawmaker.

Ilhan (ILL’-hahn) Omar won a spot in the state House on Tuesday. She’ll represent a district in Minneapolis that’s home to the largest Somali population outside of the east African country.

She was all but sure to win in the heavily Democratic district. She defeated one of the state’s longest-serving lawmakers in a Democratic primary this summer. Her Republican rival later dropped out of the race.

Omar is a 33-year-old community activist who came to the United States as an 8-year-old after spending years in a Kenyan refugee camp. Her victory seals the growing political clout of the area’s Somali community.

Minneapolis previously elected a Somali city councilman and school board member.

8 p.m.

The voting is over and the counting is underway in Minnesota.

Minnesota voters cast their ballots in races that would help determine the presidency, a trio of competitive congressional districts and which party would control the state House and Senate next year.

Exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research showed voters say the economy is the top issue facing the country. Voters also questioned the honesty of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Six in 10 voters say Clinton isn’t trustworthy, slightly less than the two-thirds who say the same about Trump.

Just how that will impact the presidential election is unclear. Clinton was the heavy favorite to capture a state that has broken for Democrats for 40 years.


6:55 p.m.

The power to decide who sets Minnesota lawmakers’ pay is in voters hands. They just may not know it.

A constitutional amendment to give that authority to an independent commission was on Tuesday’s ballot. Lawmakers are currently charged with setting their own pay but it hasn’t changed since 1999. Most legislators make just $31,000 annually.

A pair of Apple Valley voters thought all 201 lawmakers make $100,000 or more. Both Patricia Kramlinger and Luis Beltran said they voted for the amendment.

Beltran says it’s unfair that lawmakers decide their own salaries. He was floored when he learned their salary is much smaller than he had assumed.

Unlike controversial constitutional amendments on the ballot in 2012, there has been little campaigning on either side of the lawmaker pay issue.


10 a.m.

Some Minnesotans say they are tired of the two major parties and are opting for third-party candidates for president.

Sixty-three-year-old David Hansen of Roseville says he’s a Republican but voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson because the major parties are getting “out of line.” He says he just couldn’t vote for Republican Donald Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton because “Trump’s just weird and Hillary’s too far left.”

Fifty-year-old Mary McGuigan says she’s always voted Republican, but not this time. She voted for Evan McMullin.

She says while some people might think she’s throwing her vote away, others are saying it might make a statement. She says she hopes votes for third-party candidates get noticed because “we are tired of the same old thing.”


9:30 a.m.

Before polls opened on Election Day, more than 650,000 Minnesotans had already voted by absentee ballot, crushing previous records.

The number represents nearly 20 percent of the state’s registered voters. Minnesota also has same-day voter registration.

On Tuesday morning, voters were streaming into polling places at a steady pace. One polling location in the St. Paul suburb of Roseville had dozens of people in line as polls opened at 7 a.m.

The high-drama presidential race brought many people to the polls. There is also a high-stakes fight for control of the Legislature, and some congressional races around the Twin Cities suburbs and in northeastern Minnesota have yielded millions of dollars in attack ads.

Also on the ballot is a constitutional amendment that would create an independent panel to set lawmaker pay.