Phyllis Kahn

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Phyllis Kahn
Member of the
Minnesota House of Representatives
In office
January 2, 1973 – January 2, 2017
Preceded byredrawn district
Succeeded byIlhan Omar
ConstituencyDistrict 57A (1973–83)
District 58B (1983–93)
District 59B (1993–2013)
District 60B (2013–16)
Personal details
Phyllis Lorberblatt

(1937-03-23) March 23, 1937 (age 86)
Brooklyn, New York
Political partyDemocratic-Farmer-Labor
SpouseDonald Kahn (wid. 2015)
Alma materCornell University (B.A.)
Yale University (Ph.D.)
Harvard University (M.P.A.)
Occupationgenetics researcher

Phyllis Lorberblatt Kahn (born March 23, 1937) is an American politician and former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. A member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), she represented portions of the city of Minneapolis for 44 years.[1] On August 9, 2016, Ilhan Omar defeated Kahn in the DFL primary for District 60B.[2]

Education and career[edit]

Kahn received a B.A. in physics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Yale University. She later received an M.P.A. from Harvard University. She is a retired professor of biophysics.

Political career[edit]

She was the chief author and advocate of the 1975 Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, one of the first laws enacted anywhere in the world banning the smoking of tobacco in public places. This law has been used as a template for later legislation to protect the public from "secondhand smoke," and was updated and expanded in 2005.[3] In 1989, Kahn proposed reducing the voting age in Minnesota to 12. She said "history has shown us that when a segment of society is denied the right to vote, all the rights of that segment of society are then inferior."

Kahn has also repeatedly advocated for repeal of so-called "Blue Laws," which forbid liquor stores from operating on Sundays and some holidays.

In 2003 she introduced a bill to repeal the ban on first-cousin marriage in Minnesota, but it died in committee. Republican Minority Leader Marty Seifert criticized the bill in response, saying it would "turn us into a cold Arkansas."[4] According to the University of Minnesota's The Wake, Kahn was aware the bill had little chance of passing but introduced it anyway to draw attention to the issue. She reportedly got the idea after learning that cousin marriage is an acceptable form of marriage among some cultural groups that have a strong presence in Minnesota, namely the Hmong and Somali.[5]

She is a longtime advocate for education, health care and medical technology, agriculture and the natural environment, and human rights, particularly for senior citizens and women.

Minnesota House of Representatives[edit]

Kahn was first elected to represent her area of Minneapolis in 1972 and served continuously from then until January 2017.[6] In the August 2016 DFL primary election for District 60B, Kahn finished third of three candidates, so her name was not on the November 2016 ballot.[7][8]

Personal life[edit]

Kahn is Jewish.[9][10]

Kahn was married to University of Minnesota mathematics professor Donald Kahn for 58 years, until his death in January 2015. Her father-in-law was investor Irving Kahn, who lived to the age of 109. [11] [12]

In 2004, Kahn was charged with theft for removal of Republican campaign literature from doorsteps of several houses.[13] She pleaded guilty and paid a $200 fine.

Kahn was a leading opponent of efforts by DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis to construct an athletic field on its campus in her neighborhood on Nicollet Island, giving her views frequently at public hearings. Ultimately, the school was allowed to build the field.


  1. ^ "Minnesota Legislators Past & Present - Legislator Record - Kahn, Phyllis L". Retrieved 2010-07-20.
  2. ^ Coolican, J. Patrick (August 10, 2016). "Ilhan Omar makes history with victory over long-serving Rep. Phyllis Kahn". Minneapolis Star Tribune.
  3. ^ "". Archived from the original on February 20, 2012. Retrieved 2014-08-12.
  4. ^ TPT St. Paul. "Quotes for Inspiration." June 25, 2009. Archived September 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Schultz, Morgon Mae (January 26, 2005). "Lawmaking is a Little Like Test-taking" (PDF). The Wake. 3 (8): 4–5, 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 17, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  6. ^ Becker, Jessie (November 5, 2014). "Kahn will represent University area again". Minnesota Daily.
  7. ^ "Longtime State Rep. Phyllis Kahn Defeated By Somali Activist". 2016-08-09. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  8. ^ "Ilhan Omar makes history with victory over long-serving Rep. Phyllis Kahn". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  9. ^ Specktor, Mordecai (July 21, 2010). "Trailblazing Jewish Lawmaker". American Jewish World. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  10. ^ Rao, Maya (July 16, 2014). "Court sides with Kahn in election judge dispute". Star Tribune. Retrieved May 4, 2021.
  11. ^ Prather, Shannon; Rao, Maya (January 18, 2015). "Obituary: Donald Kahn, U professor, husband of Rep. Phyllis Kahn". Star Tribune.
  12. ^ DONALD KAHN Obituary
  13. ^ "Kahn faces theft charges". 2004-08-04. Archived from the original on 2015-07-14. Retrieved 2015-07-14.

External links[edit]