LEWISTON, Maine — A woman from Lewiston has made history as one of the first two Somali Americans elected to serve in the Maine Legislature.
Mana Abdi, 26, ran as a Democrat for the Maine House of Representatives District 95 seat. Her opponent, Republican Fred Sanborn-Silvers, withdrew from the race in August. At that point, it was too late for the GOP to determine a new candidate to run against Abdi.
Abdi was born in Kenya, but her family is originally from Somalia. They moved to the United States when she was 11 or 12 years old and arrived first in Kansas. That's where she learned English with the help of a neighbor who offered to tutor her. She said she took full advantage of any learning opportunities.
"Every single hour that I could possibly put in, I just read every single day and got tutored every day," Abdi said.
Abdi said she experienced some frustrations with the public school system when her family relocated to Maine, noting she doesn't think schools in our state are particularly accommodating to immigrant students.
"The system, one way or another, will force you to learn to advocate for yourself and potentially those around you, especially if you’re someone who has picked up the language rather quickly," Abdi said.
During NEWS CENTER Maine's original interview with Abdi in September, Abdi said her priorities as a legislator will be serving her community and working on issues she cares about, such as climate change, education, health care, and housing.
A South Portland woman, who last year made history as the first Somali American mayor in the U.S., also made headlines Tuesday.
Deqa Dhalac, a Democrat, was elected to represent the Maine House of Representatives District 120. She was running against Republican Michael Dougherty.