As a teenager, Omar got her start in politics by being her grandfather’s interpreter at political meetings. Before running for office, she worked as a community nutrition educator at the University of Minnesota, was a child nutrition outreach coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education, and served as a Policy Aide for the Minneapolis City Council. Omar became the policy aide for Andrew Johnson after he won the office in 2013. This appointment seems to place her in line to run for office herself and soon after became a rising star in the political world.

Elections

Ilhan Omar was initially reluctant to run for congress and was asked 14 times before she agreed to run in Minnesota House of Representatives elections in District 60B. After Keith Ellison announced he would not seek reelection, Omar filed her candidacy in June 2015. She was up against health care worker and Republican Jennifer Zielinski and won with 77.97% of the vote and as per her campaign team, was able to increase the voter turnout by 37%. Omar became the first Somali American seated to the U.S. Congress. She’s also one of the first two American Muslim women elected in Congress and the first minority woman to serve as Minnesota representative.  

Although new members of Congress are not required to take oaths on the bible or any religious books, Omar sworn on a copy of the Quran owned by her grandfather, who helped raise her. Many considered it as transformative and symbolic.

This momentous ceremony though was not spared of controversy. When Representative Omar was allowed to wear a hijab during her oath-taking, Jeanine Pirro, a television host, and a former New York state judge questioned Omar’s loyalty to the US and commented that Omar held beliefs that are “antithetical” to the Constitution. 

Pirro’s commentary was later rebuked by her tv network, Fox News.

Tenure and Activities

Ilhan Omar authored 38 bills in the Minnesota legislature during the 2017–2018 and 27 bills during the 2019-2020 legislative session (166th Congress). In total, Omar cosponsored 426 bills and resolutions which ranked her as 8th with the most number of cosponsored bills compared to house Freshmen. The majority of her authored bills focus on International Affairs, Health, Civil Rights, Government Operations and Politics, Immigration, and Education.  

She also sits in three House committees:
Higher Education & Career Readiness Policy and Finance
Civil Law & Data Practices Policy
State Government Finance

Omar was able to enact one bill (H.R. 6187: MEALS Act) introduced on March 11, 2020, that allows the Secretary of Agriculture to grant certain waivers to address school closures due to COVID-19, and for other purposes.

From January 2019 to December 2019, Omar missed 40 of 701 roll call votes, which is 5.7% of votes. She was considered as 7th most absent in votes to all House freshmen.  

Post written by Jeff Smalls, writer for the Minnesota Daily Herald and Credit Glory.