Clare Oumou Verebeten poses for a portrait inside of her home in St. Paul, Minnesota on March 16, 2022. Credit: Jaida Grey Eagle | Sahan Journal

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Clare Oumou Verbeten made history Tuesday night as one of the first Black women elected to the Minnesota Senate. 

Oumou Verbeten, 27, a Democrat, received 78 percent of vote against Republican candidate Mikki Murray in Senate District 66, which includes Roseville, Lauderdale, Falcon Heights, and parts of St. Paul. Murray received 18 percent of the vote.

Oumou Verbeten is an equity manager for the City of St. Paul and chair of the Roseville Area Schools Foundation.

“It’s an honor to be able to step into that history,” Oumou Verbeten said. “Doing that with my sisters is really important to me. We’re not alone and we’re going in there together.”

Oumou Verbeten was one of five candidates vying to become the first Black women elected to the state Senate in 164 years of statehood. Oumou Verbeten, 27, is also one of the youngest women elected to the state Senate. Candidate Zaynab Mohamed is 25.

Oumou Verbeten spent Election Day doorknocking with her mother, sister, and husband. They kicked off the morning at the DFL Midway Action Center with Governor Tim Walz, Mayor Melvin Carter, Ramsey County Commissioner John Choi, and legislative candidates.

“There’s so much history,” Oumou Verbeten said. “There are so many people running for office this year that actually look like me. Like, I feel represented by you,” Oumou Verbeten said. “If I wasn’t on the ballot, I still would have felt so energized.”

Oumou Verbeten said at an election event in October that the newcomers will create a caucus for Black women in the Senate. 

Oumou Verbeten stressed the importance of electing Black candidates to the Senate, especially in light of the local police killings of Philando Castile, George Floyd, Amir Locke, and Daunte Wright. Castile was fatally shot during a 2016 traffic stop in Oumou Verbeten’s district.

“I’m running for racial justice,” Oumou Verbeten said in October. “I’m running for us to have a community where we all feel safe, because our home has really become known for police brutality.” 

Oumou Verbeten said she’s inspired by her mother, who immigrated from Senegal in the 1980’s and had to start over in the United States, learn a new language, build a career, and raise two daughters. 

“She taught me to stand up for your community and bring people with you,” Oumou Verbeten said. 

Hibah Ansari is a reporter for Sahan Journal and corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. She was named the 2022 Young Journalist of...