Rep. Ilhan Omar pulled off a Democratic primary win Tuesday for Minnesota’s 5th District following a close contest from a centrist Democrat who dinged the progressive for wanting to defund the police.
As a member of the far-left “Squad” first elected to the House in 2018, Omar won Tuesday after a heated race in the deep-blue district encompassing Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs by beating centrist pro-police challenger Don Samuels.
On Tuesday night, before the race was called, Samuels conceded a loss but said he hopes Omar learned a lesson. “To come this close means that we have our finger on the pulse of the exhausted majority,” he told supporters.
While three other Democrats were in the running for the seat, Samuels emerged as Omar’s most prominent challenger. He was previously a member of the Minneapolis City Council from February 2003 to 2014 and has blasted his Democratic opponent for “demanding police be defunded.”
Last November, Omar supported a local ballot measure that would have done away with the police department from the city’s charter and would have instated a novel public safety agency. Voters rejected the effort, a point that Samuels sought to emphasize to 5th District constituents ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
“I knew the voters wanted to not defund the police — the  election proved it. I knew people wanted to feel safe. That’s why I sued the police department,” Samuels said in a CBS interview, referring to his effort to ensure the city provided more police officers.
Samuels was endorsed by Democratic Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and also outperformed Omar in campaign donations in the second quarter this year by more than $200,000, according to campaign finance reports.
Omar, as a Democratic candidate and then House member, has made a series of remarks hostile to Israel, including support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, which seeks to end the country’s status as a Jewish state. In September 2021, the Somalia-born lawmaker was among nine House members to oppose $1 billion for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, with two others voting “present.”
Israel’s need for the missile defense system was on vivid display last weekend when it achieved a 97% success rate intercepting incoming rockets amid almost nonstop barrages launched by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Israel Defense Forces said Sunday.
Omar got an assist from fellow Squad Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Cori Bush (D-MO), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), who campaigned for Omar in Minnesota over the weekend.
The two-term congresswoman, who is endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, brushed off criticism by her opponents, saying her supporters are “smart enough” to know she has fought for the values of her community.
“They certainly appreciate the effectiveness of the work that I do and how I deliver for the people of my district,” Omar told a local NBC affiliate on Aug. 4. “Political endorsements happen, but they will not change the outcome of this election,” she said, referring to a question about Frey’s endorsement of Samuels.
The winner of the primary election will likely be victorious against the Republican nominee in the November election, as Omar previously won by 40 percentage points against the GOP candidate in the 2020 race.
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