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August 10, 2022 3:27 pm

Ilhan Omar Defeats Moderate Democrat to Narrowly Win Primary Race in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Democratic 2020 US presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders holds hands with US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) during a campaign rally at Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Nov. 3, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Caroline Yang.

US Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar on Tuesday won a razor thin victory over Don Samuels in Minnesota’s fifth congressional district primary election, winning by fewer than 3,000 votes and two percentage points.

Since winning office in 2018, Omar has promoted far-left progressive causes like police abolition and fiercely criticized Israel. She has repeatedly drawn criticism from both Jewish constituents and fellow lawmakers for engaging in antisemitic rhetoric, facing calls for a Congressional censure in 2019 after she accused politicians of supporting Israel for “the Benjamins.”

In contrast, Samuels ran on a liberal centrist platform, criticizing Omar’s support for replacing the Minneapolis Police Department with a “public-health oriented” agency — a proposal opposed by a majority of voters in the district, according to a September 2021 poll — and her alienation of the area’s Jewish community.

Samuels’ candidacy was endorsed by Minnesota’s Democratic party establishment, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, and by the Star Tribune, which described him as “a candidate of rare caliber, almost ideally suited to represent the mix of ethnicities and issues confronting the district.”

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In his concession speech, Samuels contended that his narrow defeat was a clear indication that voters wanted new political representation and that Omar was failing in her job.

“My only hope is that my opponent will have learned from this and will show up more in her district, listen to constituents, and focus less on being a Washington star,” Samuels said, as quoted by local Fox affiliate Fox 9 KMSP.

Omar, however, remained undeterred and seemed to take her victory as a political mandate.

“Millions of dollars have been spent to unseat us. Republicans and conservative Democrats have worked in lockstep to vote us out. Corporations and special interest groups have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads against us. Pundits and news agencies have tried to smear us and undermine our work,” Omar said in a statement. “Tonight’s victory is a testament to how much our district believes in the collective values we are fighting for and how much they’re willing to do to help us overcome defeat.”

The close results of the contest have prompted speculation about whether additional spending by pro-Israel political action committees, which contributed heavily to her 2020 opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, could have nudged Samuels past the finish line.

With this race decided, Omar now looks ahead to November, when voters will choose between her and Republican Cicely Davis, who won Fifth Congressional District’s GOP primary by 11 points in a much smaller race. Of all the ballots cast in both — 124, 497 — Davis earned just 3.8%.

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