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Editorial: Willmar politics have been evolving

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Our city and state’s politics are evolving as Minnesota’s new immigrants become citizens, exercise their basic right to vote and later begin running for political office.

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Abdi Warsame made history Tuesday as he was elected to a seat on the Minneapolis City Council. He will be the highest elected Somali American official in the country, according to published reports.

Over two decades ago, East Africans fled civil wars and began arriving in Minnesota in searching for freedom, education, jobs and a good place to raise their families. These are the same goals as previous immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries from Europe and Asia.

Another Minnesotan, Hussein Samatar, was elected to the Minneapolis School Board in 2010, planting the first seeds of Somali-American politics. Unfortunately, he died in August.

Willmar politics are evolving as well.

In 2012, the Willmar School Board election had the first Latino candidate in Jackie Saulsbury and the first Somali American Sahra Gure on the ballot. Saulsbury was among the four candidates elected in Nov. 2012.

The Somali and Latino populations have grown in Willmar in recent decades. They are now becoming more politically aware and more are becoming citizens.

In turn, these new voter segments will become a growing factor in Willmar’s democratic process. And the first place those same segments will have impact is in future Willmar City Council and Willmar School Board elections.

It is something every Willmar politician will have to consider moving forward. Fear mongering about new immigrants will no longer be seen as a good candidate strategy.

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