Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar survived a fierce Democratic primary challenge Tuesday from a well-funded opponent who tried to question her national celebrity.
Her win is the latest in a season of victories by a new generation of emboldened progressive legislators.
Omar, who is seeking his second term in November, easily defeated Antone Melton-Meaux, a lawyer and mediator who raised millions to run against her.
Omar and her allies were given confidence in her chances of re-election after primary victories last week by fellow “Squad”
“Tonight, our movement not only won,” Omar tweeted. “We got a mandate for change. Despite external efforts to defeat us, we once again broke the turnout. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown. “
Melton-Meaux used the cash to paper the district and flooded airwaves with his “Focused on the Fifth” message describing Omar as in contact with the strongly democratic Fifth District in the Minneapolis area, which has not elected a Republican to Congress since 1960. He acknowledged defeat and admitted that his efforts were not enough, while he declined to speculate as to why.
“I am also extremely proud of the work we did, which received at least over 60,000 votes from the district, from people who reasoned with our message of effective leadership founded in the district and who led people to get things done,” Melton -Meaux told The Associated Press.
In 2018, Omar became one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress and built on a national profile that began when the Somali refugee who was once elected to the legislature in Minnesota just two years earlier. Her advocates on liberal issues and her eagerness to take Donald Trump made her even more prominent.
Omar rejected Melton-Meaux’s attacks, saying they were funded by interests that wanted her out of Congress because she was effective. She also downplayed Melton-Meaux’s fantastic fundraising before the vote, saying: “Organized people will always beat organized money.”
Democratic U.S. Senator Tina Smith and Republican challenger Jason Lewis easily won their primaries in the only state race on the ballot. Elsewhere, in western Minnesota’s conservative seventh district, former state senator Michelle Fischbach won a three-way Republican race for the right to challenge Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, is one of the GOP’s main targets for turning a seat in November.
After entering Congress with fanfare, Omar promoted controversy with comments about Israel and money that some fellow Democrats called anti-Semitic and apologized.
In the wake of Floyd’s death, Omar supported pressure from a majority of the Minneapolis City Council to replace the city’s police department with something new. Melton-Meaux did not support it but supported moving some funding away from the police to more socially oriented programs. Both touched on the issue in a personal way, with Omar saying she wanted her son to grow up safe. Melton-Meaux, who is also black, told a personal story that he was detained when he applied to the University of Virginia by the police for a suspected accusation that was reported to have hit his apartment building.
John Hildebrand, a 47-year-old Minneapolis teacher who voted for Omar, said her national profile is an advantage.
“I think only her presence encourages other Muslims and Somalis to run for office and try to be represented,” he said. “I think she’s just getting people more involved in the political system.”