So far, four people are running for the Ward 6 City Council member seat that is up for election this year. All of them are competing for the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party endorsement. Ward 6 includes the Cedar Riverside, Elliot Park, Philips West, Seward, Stevens Square-Loring Heights, and Ventura Village neighborhoods. It is currently represented by Jamal Osman, who is seeking reelection.
The first phase of the DFL endorsement process, the caucuses, ended last month and the ward convention is scheduled to happen online on May 20.
In the delegate count so far, Osman came in third behind Tiger Worku and Abdirizak Bihi. Kayseh Magan received the least delegates.
Based on the caucus results, where people were to sign up online or on paper forms to indicate they wanted to be delegates at the convention, Worku was allocated 182 divided among the nine precincts, Bihi 95, Osman 27, and Magan 6. Forty-nine delegate seats have been allocated for those who are not committed to any of the candidates. Despite his low delegate count, Magan has been endorsed by the Stonewall DFL and the Minnesota DFL Senior Caucus, and is the only candidate with any organizational endorsements at this time.
With questions being raised about the credibility of some delegates, those numbers could change significantly before the meeting in May. Both Magan and Osman have raised questions about the delegates signed up by Worku.
“Do I think there is some weird stuff going on? Sure,” said Osman. “He [Worku] signed up people who don’t know they signed up.”
Magan is reviewing Worku’s delegate sign-in sheets says that he has found some phone numbers that are crossed out, addresses that are turning out to be wrong out and names that are misspelled. He said that he will make a formal challenge before the end of April, and is “continuing the process of finding and interviewing more of his delegates.”
Magan is likely the least well known of all the candidates. He came to country as a refugee 30 years ago. He has worked as a correctional officer for the Washington County, and as an investigator in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. He has lived in the ward for six years, and has served on the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights and the city’s Redistricting Advisory Group.
Bihi has run twice in the past and is a long time organizer in the Cedar Riverside area.
Osman has worked in the Seward area as a community organizer and been elected to the city council twice.
Worku grew up in the area, is a past president of the Seward Neighborhood Group, graduated from South High School in 2020, and, while a junior there, worked on unsuccessful legislation at the state capital to create a Minnesota New Green Deal.
Allegations of impropriety
In a statement made after allegations of impropriety came forward, Worku wrote: “For most submitted delegates, our campaign received a fully completed and signed paper caucus form. Our originals were submitted directly to the DFL, and we have kept digital copies of each form in the event of typical, baseless accusations from candidates who are not viable.” He called Magan’s questioning of his delegates “a Trump-like effort to undermine the results of an endorsement process,” and a “dogpile of misinformation and assumption.”
Most recently, he stated, “Regarding our delegate sign ups, we have released an in-depth response. We also are confident in the DFL’s process, and have thwarted Mr. Magan’s attempt to undermine our democratic process.”
“The DFL is a mess,” said Osman, “I don’t pay much attention to it.” He is participating in the process, but said, “I don’t think it will make much difference in Ward 6.” He does not think that any candidate will win the 60% of delegates needed for an endorsement, and expressed confidence that he will go on to win reelection this year. “Ward 6 is something I know. I was able to overcome some 20 candidates in 2020, and 2021 was a landslide.”
Osman has also been criticized by Magan. “Council Member Osman and his wife have not returned phone calls left by reporters asking about he and his wife’s role in the largest pandemic fraud in the country,” he said while also raising concerns about past “homophobic and antisemitic” social media posts.
Osman called the accusations about his involvement in the child nutrition fraud “fake” when asked about it. In response to the social media posts he shared a statement he wrote last year, he stated: “Regrettably, over a decade ago I made comments about the Jewish community, Israel, and the LGBTQ+ community on social media. I want to be clear that I explicitly and completely repudiate these comments. I am sorry for the ignorance I showed and hope my growth since that time is evident…”
QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT SNG AFFILIATION
Questions have also been raised about Worku’s leadership at the Seward Neighborhood Group (SNG). In February of 2021 their executive director, Sam Taitel, filed a formal grievance concerning Worku and another board member.
“At the end of March, 2021, our executive director resigned citing difficulties working with the board leadership,” a newly elected SNG Board wrote in a letter sent to the community in September of 2021. In August 2021, a new SNG Executive Committee asked Worku to “resign as President of SNG due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead. Tiger did subsequently resign as president, and from the board.”
“At 17, I had the privilege of stepping into the role of president of the Seward Neighborhood Group,” Worku said. “There were many challenges, and I navigated those challenges to the best of my ability.
“I decided to run for office because I see a common need in many of the diverse communities that encompass Ward 6,” Worku said. “Our campaign is focused exclusively on the issues, and we trust the people of Ward 6 to do their research on each candidate.”
About his priority issues he said, “I believe we need to create a holistic approach to public safety. I will work hard on a plan that does just that. We must also implement rent control. Ward 6 had the highest percentage of renters in our city, and so we need a councilman who will champion a 3% cap.”
Top issues for candidates
“I decided to run for city council because I care about my ward. Ward 6 needs a council member who will show up and listen,” said Magan. “That isn’t happening right now.
He added, “My top priorities if elected include making sure we hold landlords who fail to meet their obligations accountable, supporting those in our community who face homelessness and working to find real solutions to curb crime, which disproportionately impacts minority communities.”
While Bihi did not respond to efforts to reach him for this article, in the DFL candidate questionnaire, he wrote, “I’m running for the city council because I believe Ward 6 deserves representation focused intently on the needs of our community – including a holistic approach to public safety, housing for our low-income and unhoused neighbors, and opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop their businesses.”
Osman lists homelessness, opiates, public safety and supporting renters as his top issues. “Working to save our community from these drugs is my #1 priority,” he said. He also noted that he is authoring a rent stabilization proposal that he hopes will pass the city council yet this year. “I am fighting for the most progressive policy we can pass,” he said.
It is very possible that the Ward 6 DFLers will not endorse any candidate at their convention on May 20. Even if they do, the campaign will continue. Worku is the only candidate who has committed to abiding by the party’s endorsement and dropping out of the race if the party endorsed someone else.
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