Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) defeated a well-funded primary challenger on Tuesday in a final win for the progressive “Squad” of first-term Democratic congresswomen of color.
Early Wednesday, Omar was leading her top opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, by roughly 18 percentage points according to The New York Times.
“In Minnesota, we know that organized people will always beat organized money,” Omar tweeted as results emerged Tuesday night. “Tonight, our movement didn’t just win. 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.”
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. She was also the first woman of color from Minnesota to win a seat.
But Omar faced criticism from some Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) particularly in 2019 after she was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.
Although she apologized, her primary opponent Melton-Meaux said in an interview, that Omar’s past comments had created “a lack of trust” in the Jewish community that she had not yet fully repaired.
Melton-Meaux won an endorsement from The Star Tribune and scored financial support from national groups, including pro-Israel political action committees. During the second quarter of 2020, he had raised six times as much Omar. He also attacked the incumbent for what he saw as attempts to claim the lime light and grow a national profile.
In an interview with Minnesota 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.”
But while fighting to keep her seat, prominent progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Elizabeth Warren (MA) threw support behind Omar. Pelosi and fellow Squad member, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) also backed the progressive lawmaker.
The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May that sparked civil unrest in the state for weeks, led both Omar and Melton-Meaux to push messages of racial justice. Omar took her platform a step further than her opponent, by embracing calls to restructure the Police Department and divert money from law enforcement to social services.
Omar’s primary success in the blue district on Tuesday means that she is very likely to serve a second term in Congress.
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