Rep. Ilhan Omar Survives Moderate Primary Challenge By The Skin Of Her Teeth

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar defeated former Minneapolis City Councilman and Board of Education member Don Samuels by fewer than 2,500 votes Tuesday, a disappointing showing for one of the furthest-left members of Congress.

Samuels declared his challenge in March 2022, claiming he “share[d] similar views [with Omar] on many issues,” while objecting to her style of politics. Omar has repeatedly called for defunding the police and endorsed a failed ballot initiative that would have eliminated a mandated officer-to-civilian ratio within the city of Minneapolis. She also endorsed a primary challenge to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who supported Samuels. (RELATED: Ilhan Omar Votes To Abolish Minneapolis Police Department And Replace It With Department Of Public Safety)

Omar received 50.3% support during the Fifth District primary, while Samuels garnered 48.2%. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi offered a late endorsement to Omar, while Samuels also received significant backing from local elected officials.

Despite Omar’s history of anti-Semitic comments, Jewish and pro-Israel organizations such as the Jewish Democratic Council of America, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Democratic Majority for Israel stayed out of the race. Omar out-raised Samuels by more than $1.3 million, Federal Election Commission filings show.

If they playing field was even, we would have won this. We have our finger on the pulse of the exhausted majority,” Samuels said in his concession speech.

Samuels focused his campaign on public safety, calling for more federal funding for the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). He was a plaintiff in a 2021 lawsuit that forced the city to hire more police officers, and described efforts to defund or abolish MPD as “immature.”

Activist Cicely Davis won the GOP nomination, defeating former NBA player Royce White. Although Davis has raised more than $2.2 million, the Fifth District leans 57 points to the left and is not expected to be competitive.

Omar faced a primary challenge in 2020 from attorney Antone Melton-Meaux. She won that race by nearly 40 points.