- Rep. Ilhan Omar is facing a competitive primary challenge in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party from attorney and mediator Antone Melton-Meaux in Minnesota’s fifth district.
- Omar, a former state representative, was elected to the solidly Democratic Minneapolis-based district in 2018 and gained a major national profile as a leading progressive voice.
- Melton-Meaux is nearly matching Omar both in campaign fundraising and spending, and has received the support of several prominent politicians and local leaders in the community.
- Polls close in Minnesota at 8 p.m. Central Time and 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
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Polls close in Minnesota at 8 p.m. Central Time and 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
Prominent first-term Rep. Ilhan Omar is facing a high-stakes, competitive primary challenge in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party from attorney and mediator Antone Melton-Meaux in Minnesota’s fifth congressional district.
Omar, a former state representative, was elected to the solidly Democratic Minneapolis-based district in 2018, replacing former Rep. Keith Ellison. A former refugee, Omar made history as the first Somali-American elected to the US Congress and, along with Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, one of the first two Muslim women elected to serve in Congress.
Tlaib, Omar, and two other young progressive women of color elected to safe seats in the 2018 blue wave, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, quickly formed an alliance in Congress and became known as The Squad.
The Squad’s members are adept communicators who have positioned themselves as leaders and spokeswoman for a new generation of progressive leaders with an agenda that puts working-class people first. They’ve also been the target of sexist and racist attacks, including from President Donald Trump, and have received plenty of criticism from Republicans and from within their own party.
Omar, in particular, has come under scrutiny for some of the more controversial parts of her record, including over comments about Israel that some interpreted to be anti-Semitic and voting “present” on a resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide. In the course of this election cycle, she has disbursed $1.65 million in campaign funds to her husband’s political consulting firm for digital and radio advertising, financial choices that while not illegal, have raised some eyebrows.
Melton-Meaux, who previously practiced law in Washington, DC, and Minneapolis, now runs an independent mediation firm in Minneapolis. He’s arguing that Omar is too focused on building her own profile, and her various controversies have prevented her from most effectively serving the district and are an untenable distraction to the district.
“We need people in Congress who want to get things done—not who get distracted fighting with Donald Trump on Twitter or even with their own party,” Melton-Meaux says on his campaign website. “I’ll do the hard work that comes along with the demands of public office, while remaining Focused On The Fifth.”
The congresswoman and her representatives have countered that she isn’t as partisan and divisive as some make her out to be, arguing that the work she does behind the scenes reflects her dedication to legislating and coalition-building.
They’ve said in interviews with the Minnesota Reformer and to the Minneapolis Star Tribune that in addition to serving in a leadership role as the whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, she’s sponsored 34 bills and passed over a dozen legislative amendments, championed important economic and racial justice causes in partnership with other legislators, and, Omar told the Reformer, has even found common ground with some fellow millennial Republicans in the chamber.
Unlike Ocasio-Cortez’s and Tlaib’s primary challengers, Melton-Meaux is nearly matching Omar both in campaign fundraising and spending, and has received the support of several prominent politicians and local leaders in the community.
Melton-Meaux has raised $4.1 million and spent $3.4 million this cycle compared to $4.2 million raised and $3.5 million spent for Omar, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Outside pro-Israel PACs have also spent heavily in the district on Melton-Meaux’s behalf, the Center said.
The editorial board of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which has been critical of Omar throughout her tenure, has endorsed Melton-Meaux, along with locally and nationally recognized civil rights activists including Josie Johnson and former Minneapolis NAACP president Nekima Levy-Armstrong.
If Omar loses, she’ll be the eighth House incumbent and the fourth Democrat to lose renomination this year. Fellow Democrats Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois, Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, and most recently, Rep. Lacy Clay of Missouri all lost their seats to primary challengers this cycle.