From left, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, flanked by Rose Roach (left) and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, speaks on a panel during the Medicare for All Town Hall meeting at Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis on July 18, 2019. Credit: Caroline Yang for MPR News

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Today I announce I’m ending my run to represent you in Congress. I thank the many friends, old and new, who joined the campaign to bring real focus to working-class, neighborhood issues in our district. But because this was my first time seeking office, ours was a retail campaign built on making new connections at street level, every day. COVID-19 presented too great an obstacle to that approach. 

So now we must figure out the best way to advance the issues of the campaign: student debt, small business challenges, living wages, and the painful inequities endured by minorities and migrants. We must pass the torch. Which candidate for Congress is best poised to hear our message, to win the office, and to move resources to the district so that local leaders can develop solutions?

I’ve thought hard on this question the past several weeks. And I’ve decided that it’s the incumbent, Ilhan Omar, who gives us the best chance of making progress. I have reached out to Ilhan, and, after a good series of discussions, am now prepared to endorse and support her campaign.

Because we have been running against Ilhan, I owe you an explanation of my reasoning. Foremost, the issues of our campaign do not differ greatly from Ilhan’s, or in truth, from the issues emphasized by the campaigns of most of the Democratic candidates. Our district has championed progressive values for generations through its congressional representatives. 


The main point of difference has been style. I worried that Ilhan had become distant from local concerns as she embraced a national movement. Other challengers pushed their attacks into the personal realm. But our campaign never did. I believe that one’s personal life is one’s own business, and we owe the same respect for the lifestyles of others as we expect for ourselves. 

I did not hesitate to bring up my concerns with Ilhan when we spoke. To her credit, she not only recognized areas in which she could improve, but spoke persuasively about her concern for local issues. Her commitment to being a voice for the Fifth District is undeniable. She invited me to be part of the effort already underway for engagement in the district and attention to our local needs. 

I believe that with a commitment to the communities and concerns of the Fifth District, Ilhan will win re-election. She has a great campaign organization, a massive fundraising platform, and a wealth of endorsements from influential Minnesotans. 

Today I humbly add my name to that list, still every bit as dedicated to the goals that brought me to this point. I will keep fighting for you and advocating for our working-class families.

I’m so grateful for your support, District 5. Stay safe!

Commentary ContributorHaji Yussuf is a community activist and owner of Orange Oak Communication, a multilingual company based in Minneapolis. He's also the founder of #UniteTable, which aims to improve...