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Immigrant candidates are coming to the fore in one of the most diverse corners of the Twin Cities.

Three are running for a Brooklyn Park City Council East District seat in a special election February 8: Xiongpao “Xp” Lee, Abraham Brima Bah, and Benjamin Osemenam. Sahan Journal spoke with Lee and Brima Bah to learn more about the issues facing Brooklyn Park residents. Osemenam did not respond to Sahan Journal’s request for an interview. A fourth candidate, LaDawn Severin, a real estate agent, is also running. 

The city’s now-Mayor Lisa Jacobson left her seat on the Council vacant when Brooklyn Park residents elected her as mayor in a close race in November. The winning candidate will serve the remainder of Jacobson’s term, which ends in 2024.

Brooklyn Park is one of the most diverse corners of the Twin Cities. According to Minnesota Compass, a state demographic research agency, nearly 55 percent are people of color. A large African immigrant community resides in Brooklyn Park, from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Liberia. Brooklyn Park and its neighboring city Brooklyn Center have the largest concentrations of Liberians outside of the Republic of Liberia. An estimated 4,000 people living in Brooklyn Park are Liberian.

The Brooklyn Park City Council is divided into three districts: East, West, and Central, each of which holds two seats on the Council. The mayor represents the city at-large. Special elections for city council will be held February 8. Absentee voting began December 27.

Hibah Ansari is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.