So this is a particularly interesting race. Incumbent Robert Lilligren is a long-time City Council member and claims credit for some stuff I really liked -- he says that when he first got elected he focused on that miserable life-of-the-neighborhood-sucking abandoned Sears building and now it's the Midtown Exchange, which is awesome. Since one of the issues in this race is minority representation, I'm going to point out that he's Ojibwe. He's also gay, although I think that if we're talking about representation and consideration of people's interests, gay men in Minneapolis are doing okay at a city level.
But, he represents a Ward that is heavily Somali immigrants (many of whom have become naturalized citizens, making them a force to be reckoned with when elections roll around). There are no Somalis on the City Council. Abdi Warsame, a Somali immigrant, ran for the endorsement and got it. (Lilligren was smart enough not to make any promises about "suspending his campaign," unlike Met Tuthill). A number of Lilligren supporters complained that they were harassed and intimidated by Warsame supporters at the Precinct Caucuses or the Ward Convention. (There's a good article about that here but for God's sake don't read the comments. I clicked to see if there was anyone who'd BEEN AT THE CONVENTION adding their 2 cents but gave up because it's a sea of xenophobia and racism with a side of hating the Irish -- I wish I were kidding.) Shortly after the convention, Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin speculated that the sudden appearance of two more "Abdis" on the ballot was because Lilligren had recruited people with similar-looking names to run and divide the vote and sow confusion.
A note: I have been trying to consistently refer to candidates by their first names in these posts, but due to the "Abdi" issue, I'm going to use last names this time around.
There are six candidates on the ballot for the Ward 6 Council seat:
Abdi Addow (Democratic-Farmer-Labor)
Abukar Abdi (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) <--note, I'll be referring to him as Abdi, because it's his last name
Sheikh Abdul (Democratic-Farmer-Labor)
Mahamed A Cali (Democratic-Farmer-Labor)
Robert Lilligren (Democratic-Farmer-Labor)
Abdi Warsame (Democratic-Farmer-Labor)
I looked up the name Abdi several years ago, because it really does seem to be the approximate Somali equivalent of "John." It means "Servant," and is sometimes paired with a name that is one of the words used to refer to God in Arabic, so you'll get Abdirahman, which means "Servant of the Benevolent One" (I think). But, someone named Abdirahman might get called Abdi for the exact same reason that probably most of the Christophers in your life get called Chris. One of the not-the-same-guy candidates is Abdul rather than Abdi -- the names have the same root. So imagine if you went to the polls and saw the following ballot:
...yeah, there might have been shenanigans. Although, there are a LOT of Somalis with names that are variants of Abdi. A LOT. And, Somalis are not a monolithic group. I think I was first struck by this back in 2001 when the Midmorning show on MPR (which had a call-in format) did an hour on the recent decision of the Feds to block money transfers to several Somali money-transferring services. (These were heavily used by local immigrants to send cash back home to their families; some of the money was apparently being diverted to terrorist groups.) Anyway, Katherine Lanpher wanted to know what people thought. I don't think she realized just how many Somalis listen to public radio. (It turns out, it's a great way to improve your English comprehension.) She took about fifteen calls in a row from Somalis, all vehemently disagreeing with each other.
Anyway. My point is, you don't necessarily need an agent provocateur to get a bunch of Somalis to run against each other, and it's POSSIBLE they all just happened to be named Abdi.
( Read more...Collapse )
Election 2013 Index of Posts