Amy Klobuchar Woos African Immigrants


African immigrants in the Twin Cities got an early preview of the fiercely contested U.S. Senate campaign on Saturday, May 29, when Amy Klobuchar, a DFL candidate, pitched them for support on the basis of embracing community issues.

“My message is a reflection of communality,” she told a group of about 50 African immigrants, mostly Somalis, who gathered at the popular pan-African coffee house, Profile Music Café in Minneapolis.

Klobuchar highlighted her record as the top prosecutor in Hennepin County and her often aggressive pursuit to “level the playing field” for everyone. She particularly talked about her quest to get the maximum sentence for a man who killed a Somali cabdriver about two years ago.

Klobuchar’s early engagement in the African immigrant community is, observers believe, a pragmatic step intended to woo the growing votes of the community. But she’s constantly reminded of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, who became a household name among the immigrant communities, particularly the Africans, for his often humble, less bureaucratic relationship with them.

In fact, Klobuchar was so complacent about this matter that she the hired former campaign manager for Wellstone to help her own campaign. She also recruited Nimco Ahmed, a vibrant Somali activist with national community mobilization experience, to attract more African voters. Ahmed was particularly instrumental in planning this meeting.

“Though we can’t formally endorse anyone at this moment, I think she’s a very good candidate for our community,” said Yassin Ahmed, who chairs the Somali American Democratic Association (SADA).

But Mahdi Haile, the executive director of Center for Somali Solutions, says that he came to gauge Klobuchar’s position on a wide spectrum of issues concerning the community and is now “convinced that she’s a strong candidate who cares about our community’s interests such as education and civil rights,” he said.

No one knows for sure the exact number of African immigrants in Minnesota, but estimates go as high as a quarter of a million, yet conservative estimates say that there are at least 100,000 African immigrants eligible to vote. Most of those vote Democratic, according to Ahmed of SADA.

Obama for Amy, Karl for Kennedy
With more than $4 million raised, Klobuchar says her campaign’s biggest celebrity-style politician so far was Sen. Barak Obama, son of an African immigrant, who was a keynote speaker at a fundraiser for her in April. Meanwhile, her main challenger, Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy had almost exhausted the who’s who list of the Bush administration, including the president, the vice president and chief Strategist Karl Rove.

Klobuchar promised that she will come back to the community if she’s elected.

Abdirahman Aynte can be reached at

Discuss the senate campaign in our “Government forum”: