Omar is first Somali-American elected to Congress

Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American elected to the U.S. Congress, says she wants to make the United States more welcoming to immigrants and refugees.

Minnesota’s first Somali-American state representative has again made history: She is now the country’s first Somali-American elected to Congress.

State Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, defeated Republican Jennifer Zielinski in the race to represent the state’s Fifth District, which spans Minneapolis, Edina, Richfield, Golden Valley and other suburbs.

Omar, 36, is a vocal advocate for single-payer health care, tighter gun restrictions and more expansive immigration policies. She has captured national attention because of her life story as a refugee who made her way into elected office. She immigrated to the United States at age 12 and served as a Minneapolis City Council policy aide before winning election to the Legislature in 2016.

“Here in Minnesota, we don’t only welcome immigrants; we send them to Washington,” Omar told supporters at a victory party in Minneapolis.

Zielinski, a clinical specialist for Allina Health, had hoped to flip a seat that’s been held by Democrats since the early 1960s — most recently by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who opted to run for state attorney general this year.

The 36-year-old Democrat, who herself was a refugee before coming to the United States, appeared Wednesday on CBS This Morning, just hours after winning Minnesota’s 5th District seat in a landslide, with 78 percent of the vote.

On the program, she expressed hope that she and the new Congress, with a Democratic House, can serve as a check on the administration of President Donald Trump.

Omar is one of two Muslim women elected Tuesday to the U.S. House. The other was Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan. They will join a record number of women in Congress.

When asked about her political journey in Minnesota, Omar said, “It’s a cold place but the people have warm hearts.”