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Ilhan Omar Defeats Democratic Primary Challenger in Minnesota’s 5th District

Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at the scene were George Floyd died in Minneapolis, Minn., June 3, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Representative Ilhan Omar defeated a well-funded challenger in the Minnesota Democratic primary on Tuesday to informally secure a second term as congresswoman to Minnesota’s historically Democratic-run 5th district.

Omar beat out Antone Melton-Meaux, an attorney who had out-fundraised her during the campaign, the Associated Press projected.

Omar’s victory is the latest in a string of wins for the progressive “Squad” which includes Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Representative Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.)  — both of whom won their own primaries in past weeks — and Representative Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.). Omar, a former refugee, made history in 2018 as the first Somali-American elected to Congress and, along with Tlaib, became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.

While Melton-Meaux said he had supported Omar’s first run for Congress, in an interview with the Associated Press he criticized the first-term congresswoman for being “divisive” and “focused on her celebrity.”

He also argued that Omar had “lost the trust of the Jewish community by her insensitive and harmful tropes.” She had come under fire for inflammatory comments about Israel last year, one in a series of controversies, including her decision to vote “present” on a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide. She has also drawn scrutiny for giving $1.65 million in campaign funds to her husband’s political consulting firm for digital and radio advertising, Business Insider reported.

The Star Tribune, Minneapolis’ largest newspaper, endorsed Melton-Meaux, writing, “Whether it’s health care, criminal justice or affordable housing, Melton-Meaux appears progressive, but pragmatic. While Omar wants to lead a movement, Melton-Meaux seeks to serve the Fifth District.” 

Still, the former state representative has maintained the support of prominent Democrats including House speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Senator Bernie Sanders (D., V.T.).

Melton-Meaux had fundraised $3.2 million from April to June, while Omar had raised nearly $500,000 in that same time, Fox News reported. While Melton-Meaux reportedly had $2 million in campaign cash at the end of June, Omar had only $1.1 million.

Omar will compete in the November general election for a second term representing Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which covers much of the city of Minneapolis that has experienced violent, widespread protests and unrest after the death of George Floyd at the hands of city police.

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