Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar holds off well-funded Democratic primary challenger

Clay Curtis
August 13, 2020

Fueled by small donations, grassroots progressive enthusiasm, and an expanding base of support, Rep. Ilhan Omar on Tuesday handily defeated a dark money-backed challenger in the Democratic primary for Minnesota's 5th congressional district - a win the progressive incumbent characterized as further evidence that "organized people will always beat organized money". Antone Melton-Meaux's campaign raised $3.2 million in the second quarter of 2020 - seven times as much as Omar's campaign.

In 2018, Omar created a wave of firsts, becoming the first Somali-American to be elected to Congress and was also the first of two Muslim women elected to Congress that year. Omar's win in the heavily Democratic district virtually guarantees she will retain her seat.

He conceded defeat and acknowledged that his efforts weren't enough, while declining to speculate on why.

Progressive Democrats have generally done well this primary cycle.

Progressive Democrats gained confidence in Omar's reelection chances after primary victories last week by fellow "Squad" member Rashida Tlaib in MI and by Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist, in a St. Louis-area congressional primary.

Omar's victory presages a growth phase for the squad, which constitutes the extreme-left faction in the Democratic House of representatives, when candidates Jamaal Bowman of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Marie Newman of IL, who unseated centrist incumbents this election year, will likely add their power to this group come January 2021. Three of the four members have won their primaries, with the fourth running unopposed.

Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Vermont and Georgia all held primary elections for Congress on Tuesday.

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The general election is November 3, with the president, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate are up for election.

While major publications such as Politico ran stories about the "racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic" Republican primary victor Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia, criticizing President Trump's endorsement of her campaign, many failed to acknowledge the implications of the notably antisemitic hard-left group's potential re-election. Pro-Israel groups and donors poured money into the race in the hopes of unseating Omar.

In an interview withMinnesota Public Radio, Melton-Meaux accused Omar of being "focused on her own personal pursuits and celebrity to the detriment of the work that needs to be done".

In the wake of Mr. Floyd's death, police reform also emerged as an issue.

"Melton-Meaux had argued that Omar is divisive and overly focused on building a national profile". Omar and Tlaib became the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018. Republicans rebuked her left-wing politics, and President Donald Trump has falsely accused her of supporting al Qaeda.

Many also labeled Tlaib antisemitic after she was friendly with an anti-Israel group that endorses terrorism.

In videos released in June by Politico, Greene suggested that Omar's election in 2018 was part of "an Islamic invasion of our government". Elsewhere, in western Minnesota's conservative 7th District, former state Sen.

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