Marriage discrepancy clouds Ilhan Omar’s historic primary victory

Ilhan Omar was greeted by supporters at Kalsan in Minneapolis. CARLOS GONZALEZ, STAR TRIBUNE

Website claims candidate is married to two men, including her brother.

Ilhan Omar, whose victory in a Minneapolis DFL primary last week virtually assured her of becoming the nation’s first Somali-American legislator, denied recent reports that she married her brother to commit immigration fraud while remaining married to the man who is the father of her three children.

“Allegations that she married her brother and is legally married to two people are categorically ridiculous and false,” campaign spokesman Ben Goldfarb said Monday.

The questions surfaced over the weekend in a report on the conservative website Power Line, which gained recognition for its role in covering forged documents relating to President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. Power Line reported that Omar was married to two men at the same time, including to her brother. The story quickly spread to other conservative-leaning websites and news organizations.

Omar defeated two tough DFL opponents — including the longest serving House member in state history — by marshaling an effective grass roots campaign that surpassed turnout expectations for both white and minority voters.

Omar spent part of her childhood in a refugee camp in Kenya before immigrating to the United States as a child knowing little English.

Hennepin County records show Omar applied for a marriage license in 2002 but never used it. It was not immediately known whom she planned to marry. Seven years later, Omar married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi in Eden Prairie, according to their marriage record. Elmi could not be reached for comment. Minnesota courts have no records of Omar and Elmi filing for divorce.

Her campaign flatly denied that Elmi is her brother. It would only say that she and Ahmed Hirsi, who is pictured in campaign literature and is the father of their three children, are together and raising a family. The Star Tribune could not find records in Minnesota showing that the two ever married.

Her campaign website reads: “Ilhan, her husband and three children live in the West Bank neighborhood of District 60B.”

The most recent voter registration records show Omar and Hirsi living at the same West Bank address.

“Like a lot of families, she and Hirsi, the father of their three children, have had ups and downs, have weathered some storms, but what matters is that they came out of it together,” Goldfarb said. He declined to offer more details.

The campaign would not make either Omar or Hirsi available for comment, releasing a statement from Omar instead: “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.”

The statement goes on to decry “[Donald] Trump-style misogyny, racism, anti-immigration rhetoric and Islamophobic division.”

“Rest assured that petty rumors like these will not distract me from the important work that lies ahead for our communities.”

Scott Johnson, a writer at Power Line, said the campaign’s response leaves many unanswered questions.

“Neither Ilhan Omar nor her campaign has offered an explanation for what is going on here,” he said. “The voters of Omar’s district deserve a straight answer to a simple question. Now, they have failed to provide one either to me or to the Star Tribune.”

Staff writer Brandon Stahl contributed to this report.





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