Challenger Omar Fateh wins DFL endorsement

District 62 incumbent state Sen. Jeff Hayden questions process

Omar Fateh
Omar Fateh, a second-generation Somali immigrant, is campaigning as a democratic socialist who will bring progressive change. Submitted photo

A 30-year-old self-described Democratic socialist is celebrating his DFL endorsement in a state Senate district that includes Whittier, Lyndale and Kingfield, but his incumbent opponent is urging the party to reconsider its support.

University of Minnesota business analyst Omar Fateh earned 72% of 582 votes cast during the District 62 DFL convention, which was held remotely on May 7. Three-term incumbent Jeff Hayden earned 26% of votes.

Fateh’s campaign said the endorsement shows District 62 wants more progressive representation.

“I believe that the district is ready for a change,” he said.

Hayden said he’s planning to appeal the endorsement and that he still plans to file for re-election.

He said a significant portion of mailers his campaign sent delegates were returned, indicating that some delegates who cast votes might not live in the district.

“I can’t abide to something that I don’t feel is fair,” he said.

District 62 DFL chairwoman Brittany Matthews said delegate addresses were verified and that Hayden’s campaign had opportunities to seek further scrutiny of them. She said there were two voters out of 648 who did not get ballots but that the virtual convention was a success overall.

“Senate District 62 has been a really good picture of how to do this well,” she said. 

Fateh said he stands by the DFL process.

A DFL party spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment, but party chairman Ken Martin told the Star Tribune that he wasn’t aware of any irregularities in District 62, which also includes eight neighborhoods east of Interstate 35W.

Fateh and Hayden will square off in an Aug. 11 primary election to determine who will be the DFL nominee. The winner will almost certainly be elected in November, given the district’s strong liberal tilt.

Hayden, one of four DFL assistant minority leaders, has been in the Legislature since 2009, first as a representative before winning a special Senate election in 2011. He said his skill set and experience with health and human services would be invaluable in upcoming legislative sessions in which the state could be looking at large budget deficits.

“I’m really focused on getting things done,” he said.

Fateh, a second-generation Somali immigrant, said he campaigned for the endorsement on issues like affordable housing, universal health care and a $15 minimum wage and that the pandemic has bolstered arguments in favor of these policies.

Matthews said Fateh’s identification as a democratic socialist is important for the district and that his platform is in line with the district’s beliefs.

“I think he represents what we want to see,” she said.

Two other DFL legislators who lost out on endorsements to progressive candidates have also questioned the party’s endorsement process. That includes Rep. Raymond Dehn, who lost out on the endorsement to Esther Agbaje in District 59B, which includes a portion of Bryn Mawr.

Local DFLers also endorsed candidates for state House and Minneapolis School Board this month. Nine-term incumbent Rep. Frank Hornstein, who chairs the Transportation Finance and Policy committee, handily defeated challenger Logan Coplan in District 61A, which includes all Southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods west of the Chain of Lakes and north of 36th Street, except Whittier.

Christa Mims was endorsed in School Board District 4, which includes Whittier and the Lake of the Isles-adjacent neighborhoods. One-term incumbent Ira Jourdain was endorsed in District 6, which includes the nine Southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods south of 36th Street. And one-term incumbent KerryJo Felder was endorsed in District 2, which covers North Minneapolis.

Eighth-year board member Kim Ellison was endorsed for the open citywide School Board seat.

The filing period for the School Board and Legislative seats runs from May 19 to June 2. The state primary election will be Aug. 11, and the general election will be Nov. 3.