Minnesota State Rep. Ilhan Omar is still serving out her first term as the first Somali-American legislator, but she is poised to inherit what some have called the “anti-Israel seat” in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District has remained a Democratic stronghold since the 1970’s, and Omar should easily defeat her opponent Republican Jennifer Zielinski in the race to replace Rep. Keith Ellison, who left Congress to run for Minnesota attorney general.
Like her soon-to-be predecessor, Omar brings with her a healthy resentment of the Israeli state, notoriously tweeting in 2014 that “Israel has hypnotized the world.”
“May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel,” the tweet continued, later referring to Israel as an “apartheid regime.”
Omar’s intriguing past, which involves four years in a Kenyan refugee camp, goes well beyond her contempt for Israel.
Minneapolis attorney and writer Scott Johnson, who dubbed MN-05 the “anti-Israel seat,” wrote a 2016 article claiming that Omar had married the father of her three children in 2002, but then married her alleged brother in 2009 for fraudulent purposes.
Omar obviously denied the claims, calling them “baseless and absurd,” but Johnson insisted that the claims “checked out” after consulting the Minnesota Official Marriage System.
The Star Tribune later reported that Omar had applied for a marriage license in 2002, though never used it. Her campaign eventually released a statement in the hopes of putting the matter to rest, saying she intended to marry Ahmed Hirsi, whom she called the “father of my children and love of my life,” but they never legally married and ended their relationship in 2008.
“I entered into a relationship with a British citizen, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, and married him legally in 2009. Our relationship ended in 2011 and we divorced in our faith tradition,” Omar’s statement elaborated, adding that she has “yet to legally divorce” Elmi.
In July, Omar was then accused by Rep. Steve Drazkowski in an official complaint of using campaign funds to pay for her divorce, but both Omar and her lawyer Carla Kjellberg denied the accusation as “absolutely false.”
But Drazkowski said Omar has a “worrisome pattern” of campaign finance violations. In one case, Omar did file her mandatory financial disclosure forms nearly six months late, earning herself $100 in late fees and $1000 in civil penalties.
More recently, Omar said she would return $2,500 she had collected in speaking fees from two local community colleges, both of which lobby at the state Legislature, an action expressly prohibited by Minnesota House rules.