Ilhan Omar wins her Minnesota primaryAugust 12, 2020
Since taking her place in Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar has faced continued attacks based on her race, gender, and religion. It’s no surprise, then, that this primary cycle Omar also dealt with a number of challengers vying to replace her. But despite some rumors that her Congressional seat was up for grabs, Omar won her Minnesota primary election Tuesday. Her win may not stem all of the criticism toward her, but it certainly shows that she will not be easily ousted.
This primary, Omar faced off mainly against Antone Melton-Meaux, a first-time political candidate. The two candidates were pretty much tied as far as fundraising goes: CNN reported that Omar had a slight edge over Melton-Meaux’s $4.1 million, with a total of $4.3 million in her coffers. While NPR reported that both candidates heavily relied on out-of-state donors, Melton-Meaux also took $530,000 from two Zionist political action committees.
The funding invokes an earlier controversy where Omar was accused of anti-Semitism based on her tweets. While Omar later apologized, the backlash against her had less to do with what she said and more to do with Omar’s uniquely threatening position as a Black Muslim woman in power.
Ultimately, Omar ended up leading the race by more than 15 percentage points. Regarding her victory, Omar tweeted, “In Minnesota, we know that organized people will always beat organized money. 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.”
Throughout his campaign, Melton-Meaux focused on accusing Omar of being “too divisive” and focused on her own perceived celebrity. Melton-Meaux told Minnesota Public Radio that Omar “is out of touch and has been focused on her own personal pursuits.”
While Omar and Melton-Meaux fundraised close to the same amount of money, local news outlet the Pioneer Press reported that Omar’s money came from more small donors than her opponent’s. And Melton-Meaux’s assertions that Omar cares more about fame than her constituents didn’t sit well with everybody.
“I don’t think that was Rep. Omar’s choice, I don’t think she set out to be a star,” Charlie Rounds, an LGBTQ+ advocate in Minneapolis, told the Pioneer Press. “It’s because she’s a Muslim woman and there’s a lot of people that just are going to do anything to defeat her because she’s Muslim — we have to look at that reality.”
Omar wasn’t the only congresswoman who faced accusations surrounding her popularity. CNN reported that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan were also dealt similar attacks — but it failed each time. Every single member of the so-called “Squad” beat out their opponents this primary.