Representative Ilhan Omar pushes back challenger in Minnesota Democratic primary
MINNEAPOLIS – Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota survived a tough Democratic senior challenge on Tuesday from a well-funded opponent who tried to make his national stardom a problem.
Omar, who was running for his second term in November, defeated Antone Melton-Meaux, a lawyer and mediator who raised millions of anti-Omar money.
Melton-Meaux used the money to line the district and flood the airwaves with his “Focus on the Fifth” message that portrayed Omar, a member of “The Squad” of four progressive women in Congress, as out of touch with the Minneapolis area. . 5th district.
Omar became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018, building on a national profile that began when the former Somali refugee was elected to the Minnesota legislature two years earlier. Her aggressive advocacy on liberal issues and her eagerness to confront Donald Trump made her even more important.
Omar rejected Melton-Meaux’s attacks, saying they were funded by interests that wanted to get her out of Congress because she is effective. She also downplayed the importance of Melton-Meaux’s prodigious fundraising before the vote, saying: “Organized people will always beat organized money.”
U.S. Democratic Senator Tina Smith and Republican challenger Jason Lewis easily won their primaries in the only statewide races on the ballot. Elsewhere, in the conservative 7th District of western Minnesota, former state senator Michelle Fischbach was the approved Republican in a three-way race for the right to challenge Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. One of the GOP’s main targets for overthrowing a House seat in November is Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
After entering Congress with a bang, Omar hurt herself early on with comments about Israel and money that even some fellow Democrats called anti-Semitic, and found herself apologizing. She also came under scrutiny when her marriage fell apart and she married her political consultant months after denying she had an affair.
Republicans have also raised questions about continuing payments to her new husband’s business, although experts have said they are not necessarily inappropriate.
Following George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, police reform also emerged as a problem. Omar backed pressure from a majority of the Minneapolis City Council to replace the city’s police department with something new. Melton-Meaux did not support this, but did support shifting some of the funding from the police to more social service oriented programs. Both approached the issue in personal ways, with Omar saying she wanted her son to grow up safely. Melton-Meaux, who is also black, shared a personal story of being detained while at the University of Virginia by police looking for an assault suspect who allegedly entered his apartment building.
Progressive Democrats have gained confidence in Omar’s reelection chances after primary victories last week for Squad member Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush during the ‘a primary of the Congress of the Saint-Louis region. Progressives also claimed momentum for the renewed emphasis on racial and economic justice after Floyd’s death.
Catherine Thornton, 36, a General Mills researcher who lives in southwest Minneapolis, said Tuesday she voted for Melton-Meaux.
“I have a lot of respect for Ms. Omar, but personally I don’t just align myself with her focus on the progressive agenda. And I felt that Mr. Melton-Meaux would focus more on the needs of our district and the people in our district.
Consultant Wendy Helgeson, 57, supported Omar two years ago, even putting up a lawn sign in her yard, and said she was “very proud to be the first black Muslim woman we elected” . But she said she was concerned about campaign payments to Omar’s husband’s business as well as his national presence, and found it easy to vote for Melton-Meaux, who she says has been her friend ever since. 12 years.
“I admire her as a woman,” Helgeson said of Omar. “As a candidate, ehhh … I have some reservations.”
John Hildebrand, a 47-year-old teacher in Minneapolis who voted for Omar, said her national profile was an advantage.
“I think his very presence encourages other Muslims and Somalis to stand for election and seek representation,” he said. “I think she is engaging people more and more in the political system.”
Blake Smith, 23, a park worker who is black and describes himself as a leftist, also supported Omar. He is concerned about climate change, medicare for all and political money, and he sees her as an ally.
“It’s more time for a drastic change than a little one – I don’t think we have more time for a gradual change,” Smith said.