MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Ilhan Omar made history last week, poised to become the first Somali-American candidate elected to a state house anywhere in the United States. But she’s now facing a slew of questions, and not giving a lot of answers, about marriage certificates and the identity of her legal husband.
The story has been bubbling to the surface since Omar defeated veteran lawmaker Phyllis Kahn in the 60B primary – a district which includes the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Omar, whose campaign biography says she spent 4 years in a Kenyan refugee camp before settling in Minneapolis in 1997, is a heavy favorite to win the November general election in her DFL stronghold district.
But now there are questions about her husband, and a couple marriage licenses of hers that are on file in Hennepin County.
In 2002, Omar, then just 19, swore out a marriage license with a man named Ahmed Aden. They write that they were married by the Muslim Church, but were having trouble getting housing and insurance. Hennepin County has no marriage certificate or final record that legalized the marriage.
Then, in 2009, she at least on paper legally marries a man by the name of Ahmed Nur Said Elmi. The conservative Power Line blog alleges that this is her brother -- a potential sham marriage to help the brother with immigration into the United States. Fox 9 cannot independently confirm the allegation.
In recent interviews, Ilhan Omar has said her husband is a third man -- Ahmed Hirsi -- the father of the couple's 3 children. We could not find any divorce records in Ilhan Omar's name in Minnesota. As for the man she publicly refers to as her husband, one source in the community tells Fox 9 that Ilhan Omar's current marriage is what you would call a “traditional” or “community” marriage -- one not necessarily legalized with paperwork at the county or state level.
While Ilhan Omar's campaign wouldn't provide any documentation or explanation for the marriage licenses on file, they did release a statement calling the rumors about her personal life “absurd” and “false.”
Statement from Ilhan Omar
“A number of baseless, absurd rumors that don't bear repeating have been made recently about my personal life and family. Let me be clear: they are categorically false.
“Now, the question that needs to be asked is,” Why are these absurd and hateful rumors being circulated?”
“It matters that I am a woman. It matters that I am a Somali-American woman. It matters that I am a Muslim and immigrant woman. It matters that our campaign won the primary by creating a multi-cultural coalition between longtime residents, East Africans immigrants and students. This campaign has always been about bringing people together across lines of difference and that’s not going to change.
“I know deeply that the people of District 60B oppose Donald Trump-style misogyny, racism, anti-immigration rhetoric and Islamophobic division. We stand together to build a more prosperous and equitable district and state.
“Despite the best efforts of those who wish to divide us and stand in the way of progress, rest assured that petty rumors like these will not distract me from the important work that lies ahead for our communities.”
Statement from Republican candidate Abdimalik Askar
The Republican candidate for MN House 60B, Abdimalik Askar, released a statement on Wednesday asking for "more facts" from Omar:
“We all know what has been alleged about Omar illegally marrying her brother to commit immigration fraud. It is a serious accusation and would certainly disqualify her from representing district 60B if true.”
“The truly odd thing about the story is how Omar’s campaign has chosen to respond. Instead of having her brother explain who he married or producing any sort of documentation, Omar released a statement calling the accusations a racist witch-hunt."
"I’m obviously very much in favor of a Somali being elected in 60B, and my questions about this situation are like everyone’s. The constituents that Omar wishes to represent, myself included, would simply like a clear non-political answer about the allegations. If she can’t provide that, what kind of representative is she going to be?”