Speed Reads

Election Day 2016

One bright spot for glass ceilings: The first Somali-American legislator

Democrat Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American Muslim elected to Congress Tuesday night after winning her state House race in Minnesota. Omar, 34, a survivor of the Somali civil war and a refugee, immigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was 12 years old. Though this is her first elected office, Omar, who wears a hijab, is also the director of policy at Women Organizing Women Network.

"[Omar's victory] says something about the future of Minnesota, and what it means to be a Minnesotan," Minnesota House Minority Leader Paul Thissen told the Star Tribune.

Omar credits her interest in politics to some of her first years living in the states, when she noticed such huge racial disparities and realized that the democracy her new country leaned on was a fragile one. "That [is] also now part of my duty to advance progress toward a more equitable and just society," she has said.

Now, the newly minted legislator sets her sights on helping women entrepreneurs, criminal justice reform, and clean air and water policy.