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Congressman Keith Ellison
On this date in 2006, Minneapolis, MN, elected the nation's first Muslim member of Congress and the state's first nonwhite representative in Washington.
African American Keith Ellison easily won a Minneapolis-area district that Republicans had not carried since 1962. Ellison said his race and religion were of only secondary importance. Ellison said, "I think the most important thing about this race is we tried to pull people together on things we all share, things that are important to everyone. We all need peace, and this Iraq policy is dangerous to our country." He called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Ellison said his campaign united labor, minority communities, and peace activists. "We were able to bring in Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists," he said. "We brought in everybody."
Ellison focused on issues that resonate in Minneapolis's urban, liberal-leaning 5th District. By favoring gay rights and legal abortion, Ellison cut a path away from many Muslims. Hayat Hassan, 30, a single mother and a Muslim, said she voted for Ellison because of his healthcare and education positions.
Since his election, Ellison has continued to be a strong advocate for ending the war in Iraq and a fighter for civil liberties, the environment, immigration reform, health reform, and education issues. He was recently elected as Attorney General in Minnesota.