About Ilhan

Born in Somalia, Ilhan and her family fled the country's civil war when she was eight-years-old. They lived in a refugee camp in Kenya for four years before coming to the United States, eventually settling in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis in 1997.

Ilhan’s interest in politics began at the age of 14 when she was as an interpreter for her grandfather at local DFL caucuses. Watching neighbors come together to advocate for change at the grassroots level made Ilhan fall in love with the democratic process.

As a student at Edison High School in Minneapolis, she became an organizer and has been a coalition builder ever since. She worked as a community educator at the University of Minnesota and has been a devoted progressive activist in the DFL party for many years. Before running for office, Ilhan was a Humphrey Policy Fellow and served as a senior Policy Aide for a Minneapolis City Council Member. Through advocacy work with which she’s been involved, she’s advanced important issues, including support for working families, educational access, environmental protection, and racial equity.

In 2016, Ilhan became the first Somali-American, Muslim legislator in the United States. With the help of her committed campaign team, they increased voter turnout by 37%. She was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 60B, where she’s lived for the past 20 years and where she and her husband Ahmed are raising their three children.

Experience

Ilhan is an accomplished legislator, policy analyst, community organizer, non-profit leader, public speaker, board member, youth mentor, and an award-winning human rights advocate.

Policy Expert

  • Assistant Minority Leader at the Minnesota Legislature with assignments to three committees: Civil Law and Data Practices Policy; Higher Education and Career Readiness Policy and Finance; State Government Finance
  • Appointed to and Chaired Governor Dayton's Young Women's Initiative
  • Director of Policy, Women Organizing Women
  • Former Minneapolis City Council Senior Policy Aide
  • Humphrey Policy Fellow
  • Child Nutrition Outreach Coordinator, MN Department of Education
  • Community Nutrition Educator, University of Minnesota

Coalition Builder

  • VoteRunLead 2018 Keynote Speaker
  • National American Muslim Democratic Caucus Member
  • Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network, Member of America's Cabinet

Community Leader

  • Former Advisory Board member for Minnesota Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
  • Former VP of Minneapolis NAACP
  • Board Member, St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board
  • Human Rights & Women's Advocate
  • Oxfam Sister Planet Ambassador
  • 2017 United Way Refugee Summit Keynote
  • Board Member, The Legal Rights Center

Accomplishments

Legislative

  • Helped allocate $5 million for outreach and prevention education to raise awareness during a measles outbreak and encourage vaccines
  • Allocated $400,000 to the Somali Museum of Arts and $350,000 for the expansion and renovation of the Brian Coyle Community Center in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood
  • Passed legislation to increase funding summer enrichment programs for low income students who may be unfamiliar with a higher education experience
  • Passed $77 million in Statewide Affordable Housing and Homelessness Infrastructure bonds to improve housing, including $10 million for Public Housing Rehabilitation
  • Expanded childcare grants for student parents and fought for them to receive a tax credit
  • Negotiated over $200 million in bonding packages to improve our infrastructure in district
  • Passed $15 and paid sick and safe time in Minneapolis
  • Introduced HF 4201, requiring a counselor in every school in Minnesota
  • Introduced HF 3434, eliminating the statute of limitations for sex offenses
  • Introduced HF 2949, changing lease requirements to fight student exploitation
  • Introduced HF 2630, funding the prevention of measles outbreaks in immigrant communities

Constituent Services

  • Rallied 2,000+ neighbors to oppose Trump’s immigration ban, strengthening Minnesota’s role in the lawsuit to oppose the travel ban
  • Served 500+ neighbors with immigration resource fair
  • Organized a “Know your Rights” training for Minneapolis-area immigrants
  • Held regular in-district office hours and community forums, including her signature “Coffee and Kulan” events, connecting with over 1,000 constituents in her first term
  • Led caucus trainings to improve the political participation of college students in her district
  • Opened a first of its kind in-district office for constituent services

Electoral Organizing

  • Increased 2016 voter turnout by 37% in her district
  • Hired canvassers and adopted 10 swing districts for MN DFL House and Senate candidates in the 2016 general election, knocking on 2,000+ doors in St. Cloud, Faribault, Willmar, and other cities across Minnesota
  • Supported progressive candidates who backed a higher minimum wage and smart housing policy in the 2017 Municipal Election and helped secure a progressive majority on the Minneapolis City Council and Minneapolis Park Board

Awards and Recognition

  • "Commitment to Service Award," Governor Dayton's Council on the Martin Luther King Jr Holiday
  • "Champion of Change Award," Minnesota Urban Debate League, Given for being a catalyst for change in our community through advancement of effective policy and a more engaged community
  • "The Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Award," National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), Given for commitment to advancing human rights and women's leadership
  • "Olga Zoltai Award," International Institute of MN, Given in recognition of outstanding community leadership by, or in service to, New Americans
  • "Hall of Fame Award," National Association of Women's Business Owners, Given for excellent female advancement of Business Leadership
  • "Public Service Award," University of Minnesota Somali Student Association, Given for outstanding work in the community
  • "Torchbearer Award," African Network of Southwest Florida (ANSWFL), Given for outstanding leadership and role modeling to people of African Diaspora
  • 2018 "Citizen of the Year" Award, Minneapolis Rotary Club
  • Inducted to the DFL Women’s Hall of Fame in 2010