Ilhan Omar defeats well-funded opponent in Democratic primary

Ilhan Omar is seeking second term in the U.S. House.

Published - August 12, 2020 03:03 pm IST - MINNEAPOLIS (AP)

Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar addresses media at the Mercado Central in Minneapolis on Tuesday, the primary Election Day in Minnesota, USA.

Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar addresses media at the Mercado Central in Minneapolis on Tuesday, the primary Election Day in Minnesota, USA.

- Minnesota’s Representative Ilhan Omar survived a stiff Democratic primary challenge on Tuesday from a well-funded opponent who tried to make an issue of her national celebrity, the latest in a string of victories by a new generation of emboldened progressive lawmakers.

Ms. Omar, seeking her second term in U.S. House of Representatives in November, easily defeated Antone Melton-Meaux, an attorney and mediator who raised millions in anti-Omar money. “Tonight, our movement didn’t just win,” Ms. Omar tweeted. “We earned a mandate for change. Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown.”

Ms. Omar and her allies gained confidence in her re-election chances after primary victories last week by fellow ‘Squad’ member Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and by Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist who ousted a longtime St. Louis-area congressman. They also claimed momentum from the renewed focus on racial and economic justice after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

Mr. Melton-Meaux used the cash to paper the district and flood airwaves with his “Focused on the Fifth” message that portrayed Ms. Omar as out of touch with the heavily Democratic Minneapolis-area 5th District, which hasn’t elected a Republican to Congress since 1960. He conceded defeat and acknowledged that his efforts weren’t enough. She is ‘incredibly proud’ of the work the team did that garnered at least over 60,000 votes from the district, he said.

In 2018, Ms. Omar became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, building on a national profile that started when the one-time refugee from Somalia was elected to the Minnesota Legislature just two years earlier. Her aggressive advocacy on liberal issues, and her eagerness to take on U.S. President Donald Trump, made her even more prominent.

Ms. Omar rejected Mr. Melton-Meaux’s attacks, saying they were funded by interests who wanted to get her out of Congress because she’s effective. She also downplayed Mr. Melton-Meaux’s prodigious fundraising before the vote saying, “Organized people will always beat organized money.”

After entering Congress with fanfare, Ms. Omar hurt herself early 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 they were having an affair. Republicans also raised questions about continuing payments to her new husband’s firm, though experts said they aren’t necessarily improper.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, police reform also emerged as an issue. Ms. Omar supported a push by a majority of the Minneapolis City Council to replace the city’s police department with something new.

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