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Minnesota voters send first Muslim to Capitol Hill

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (CNN) -- In a political first, a Muslim has been elected to serve in the U.S. Congress.

Keith Ellison, a Minnesota state legislator and lawyer, reached the political milestone by defeating two other candidates in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, which covers the Minneapolis area.

His victory was part of the Democratic wave that seized control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans. (Watch how Democrats' victory will change Capitol Hill -- 2:25) Video

Ellison won 56 percent of the vote, defeating Republican Alan Fine and the Independence Party's Tammy Lee, both of whom garnered 21 percent of the vote. A Green Party candidate received 2 percent.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Ellison received 135,519 votes, Fine 51,896, and Lee, 51,250.

Ellison is also the first African-American from Minnesota to be elected to the U.S. House. He ran on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor ticket in a district that is heavily liberal.

Members of that party, a uniquely Minnesotan movement, describe the DFL as the state chapter of the Democratic Party.

Ellison's winning platform

Ellison's views reflect Democratic ideals and discontent. (Watch what Ellison said about Katrina victims, abortion and insurance for the poor -- 2:38)

He is opposed to the war in Iraq and on his Web site, he has called "for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq."

"I opposed the war before it began. I was against this war once it started and I am the only candidate calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops."

His religious message is one of inclusiveness.

Regarding his Muslim faith, he said, "people draw strength and moral courage from a variety of religious traditions."

"Mine have come from both Catholicism and Islam. I was raised Catholic and later became a Muslim while attending Wayne State University. I am inspired by the Quran's message of an encompassing divine love, and a deep faith guides my life every day."

Ellison's position on the Israeli-Palestinian issue is supportive of the two-state solution and the road map to peace process. He has been critical of the Hamas movement.

"Peace is necessary for both Israeli and Palestinian people, and I wholeheartedly support peace movements in Israel and throughout the region," he said in a statement on his Web site.

He was endorsed by the Twin Cities newspaper, the American Jewish World, which said, "In Ellison, we have a moderate Muslim who extends his hand in friendship to the Jewish community and supports the security of the State of Israel."

Ellison is pro-choice and pro-labor, and supports "universal single payer health care" -- long popular stances among liberals.

The seat Ellison won had been held by Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, the longtime Democratic incumbent, whose retirement sparked a wide-open race. Sabo won 70 percent of the vote for the House seat in 2004.



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