Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-60B, Minneapolis), first took office on Jan 02, 1973 and is one of the two longest serving legislators in MN history along with Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-45A, Robbinsdale), who claims to have been sworn in first due to alphabetical order. She has faced significant internal party challenges to retain her legislative seat in the past two election cycles and 2016 in no different.
In 2012, she faced Mike Griffin, who had organized and rev’ed up the University of MN student community for his support, although Kahn won endorsement on 5th ballot. This ended her challenge for that year since no one contested against her in the DFL Primary. In 2014, she faced a Somali immigrant candidate in Mohamud Noor and battled to a standstill, with neither candidate receiving endorsement, and she defeated him in the Primary by 383 votes for 54.47% to 45.53%.
This election Kahn will experience the double whammy. She again faces Noor, but he has his sights focused mainly on the Primary and it is in his own interest for there not to be a DFL endorsement this time through, unless he were to receive it, which is highly unlikely. Additionally, Ilhan Omar is challenging Kahn for the endorsement, she too is of Somali descent, and has generated support from the UMN student community and especially with the strong affinity for US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) among students, there is a great deal of interest in this contest. In fact, for the caucuses Kahn put out a piece of literature stating “If you like Bernie Sanders, You’ll Love Phyllis Kahn.”
We will be on hand at the NE Middle School to watch the endorsement fight for the 60B seat, and expect the 5 ballot contest will be an interesting exercise in both (D)emocratic and (d)emocratic politics. Our intelligence regarding the endorsement fight places Omar at 50% or slightly better, with Kahn carrying 33.3% of the support, Noor 10-12% and the remaining 7-5% undecided. Now the Omar camp is claiming they are closer to the 60% threshold for endorsement, but not achieving it, and they also state Noor’s number are closer to 5%. Now, our numbers are speculative and an aggregate of discussions with all three camps and we will be waiting for the first ballot results just like everyone else.
The principle issue we are interested in during the endorsement fight is if Omar fails to secure the endorsement will she commit to continuing forward with a Primary challenge. This is where the rubber meets the road, because with the Primary date set for August 9th, the student community will not be back at the UMN which begins its Fall Semester September 6th. This means students currently enrolled will need to reregister to vote for the Primary and General elections and tracking those people over the course of the summer will be a sizeable undertaking.
If Omar fails to secure the endorsement her financial resources will be a far greater challenge, while Kahn can count on support from the DFL House Caucus and the value of incumbency. Since Noor has planned to contest in the Primary, he is already aware of the challenges ahead.
Now for the record, we believe as our experience covering legislative politics for the last 20 years has shown seniority matters, and it is the principal reason legislators get legislation passed. It is also worth noting; our Editor-In-Chief Shawn Towle was a Higher Education lobbyist for students at the UMN and the Community College System and understands the value of the specific person in place when it comes time to advocate for a specific institution or agenda.
Surely a freshman member from a safe seat can pass legislation, but not without a great deal of handholding, coddling and assistance from other senior legislators. If one looks at Kahn’s current spate of bills authored during the 2015-16 session you will see a broad cross section of issues, but this is what she has put forward as a member of the Minority party, as a senior member of the Majority party, and as a Committee Chair the list will be even longer and the success rate far higher.
2015-16 Bills Authored by Rep. Phyllis Kahns
HF3330 Somali community support grant funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF3298 Presidential primary established, party caucuses required to take place on the first Tuesday in February in a general election year, and technical changes made.
HF3216 Security transaction fees modified, student loan refinancing funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF3215 Minnesota State High School League gender identity policy codified.
HF3214 Postsecondary correctional education program for prison inmates expanded, and money appropriated.
HF3213 Agency procurement of supplies or services from persons that fail to disclose information relating to conflict minerals originating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or its neighboring countries prohibited, an agency providing notice of the prohibition in any solicitation for supplies or services required.
HF3212 Minneapolis; public housing renovation funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.
HF3050 Somali children and family engagement program in accessing early childhood care and education, early childhood health and developmental screening, and reading assessments provided; and money appropriated.
HF2594 Certified salt applicator program established, liability limited, and rulemaking authorized.
HF2580 Persons on the consolidated terrorist watchlist prohibited from possessing firearms.
HF2312 Major league soccer team community ownership process provided.
HF2308 Minneapolis; Cedar Cultural Center funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.
HF2287 Urban riverfront model ordinance and building code development required.
HF2278 Minneapolis; Brian Coyle Center renovation and expansion funding provided, Brian Coyle Center appropriation modified, bonds issued, and money appropriated.
HF2277 Minneapolis; pedestrian bike bridge over I-94 connecting Cedar-Riverside and Seward neighborhoods replacement funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.
HF2276 Historic structure rehabilitation tax credit allowed.
HF2166 Organ harvesting; a resolution expressing concern over reports of forced organ harvesting from prisoners for their spiritual beliefs and other minority groups in the People’s Republic of China.
HF2119 Managed natural landscapes authorized, and local ordinances prohibiting natural landscapes prohibited.
HF2089 Smoking definition under the Clean Indoor Air Act expanded.
HF2088 Voting age lowered to 16 in school district elections, and constitutional amendment proposed.
HF2087 State and local election voting age changed from 18 to 16, and constitutional amendment proposed.
HF1963 Minnesota Public Radio equipment grants provided, and money appropriated.
HF1926 Minneapolis; 5th Street Southeast bridge replacement funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.
HF1889 Leif Erickson statue engraving changed.
HF1823 Hennepin County; emergency shelter facility funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF1766 Antimicrobial drug nontherapeutic use for food animals prohibited, and sale of food produced from animals administered antimicrobial drugs for nontherapeutic uses prohibited.
HF1417 African culture, heritage, and art grants through the Minnesota Humanities Center provided, and money appropriated.
HF1360 Minneapolis; 10th Avenue bridge repair and rehabilitation funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.
HF1288 Individuals at least 16 years of age permitted to register to vote.
HF1142 Residential property rights defined.
HF1015 Marriage solemnization by atheist and humanist celebrants allowed.
HF0905 State Lottery director authorized to operate slot machines at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
HF0765 Wagering on results of professional or collegiate sports or athletic events permitted.
HF0630 Tax and fee definitions repealed.
HF0486 Alcohol consumption by those under 21 allowed.
HF0485 Alcohol consumption by those under 21 allowed.
HF0203 Vulnerable road user criminal penalties created.
HF0166 Legacy fund transfer to legislative auditor required for costs incurred, and money appropriated.
HF0165 Gender equality under the law provided, and constitutional amendment proposed.
HF0020 Continuing appropriations provided with exceptions and adjustments.
HF0019 Minnesota State Band funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF0018 MNsure law exemptions relating to the office of MN.IT services removed.