The table was set for Mohamud Noor to foster history. Then forces more powerful interceded.
Noor found himself in familiar real estate at the DFL nominating convention inside Northwest Middle School on Saturday. Of the three candidates bucking for the party endorsement in the blue stronghold House District 60B — which starts south of I-94 in Minneapolis and extends north to Hennepin Avenue and east to the city line — Noor’s candidacy stalled in last place, trailing incumbent Rep. Phyllis Kahn and first-time aspirant Ilhan Omar by 24 and 44 percent, respectively.
After two rounds of balloting, it was clear that Noor was nowhere close to securing 20 percent of the 250 delegates needed to continue.
But instead of directing his troops to throw their support behind Omar, who’s seeking to become the first Somali woman to hold office in any U.S. state legislature, an in-house coup d’etat commenced. Over the next three rounds, which lasted six hours, all of his delegates refused to endorse either of the remaining two contenders.
At 55 percent, Omar finished about 23 points ahead of the 79-year-old incumbent, yet 11 votes shy of the number needed for the endorsement. Which begs the question: Why did Noor do it?
Perhaps his political track record provides a portal.
Including last weekend’s performance, Noor has lost four bids for elected office. He began in 2010 with a fifth-place showing for the at-large Minneapolis School Board seat. Two years later, Kari Dziedzic spanked him in a state Senate primary.
In 2014, Noor handily lost again in the DFL primary when he challenged Kahn for the first time. Incidentally, it was none other than Omar who served as his political director when he took on Kahn two years ago.
Hudda Ibrahim, a St. Cloud Tech and Community College faculty member and editor-in-chief at Somalicurrent.com, watched a live stream of last weekend’s proceedings. It didn’t surprise in the least.
After all, Ibrahim says, Omar isn’t just going up against other candidates. She’s also contending with a tradition of misogyny that burrows centuries.
“He cannot lose to a young Somali woman,” Ibrahim says. “Even though there are a lot of men who don’t demonize women — a woman candidate — men demonizing women is embedded in Somali culture.
Somali culture is patriarchal. So when a woman is running for an office, our male-dominated society will try to undermine the woman. This is a problem in my culture and this, I believe, is what happened here. They see women only in the kitchen.”
Ibrahim points to Noor’s failed candidacies against other women as the fertilizer for Saturday’s tactics. Coming up short again — and to a Somali woman, no less — was a truth he wasn’t about to accept lying down.
“The community will always, the majority of them, support the men,” she says. “That’s something that’s rooted in our culture. It’s been there for centuries.”
Noor may have a different story to tell, but he did not respond to repeated interview requests.