Aug 10, 2022 - Axios Twin Cities

Ilhan Omar wins primary against moderate challenger by narrow margin

Don Samuels and Ilhan Omar
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (right) and Don Samuels. Photos courtesy of the Don Samuels campaign and the U.S. House of Representatives

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar narrowly defeated her well-funded challenger Don Samuels in Tuesday's Democratic Primary, the AP reports.

The big picture: Samuels, a former City Council member, had sought to position himself as a more moderate option for the Minneapolis-based 5th Congressional District.

  • But voters in the safe Democratic district backed Omar, a progressive firebrand who gained national prominence as the first Somali woman elected to Congress, by a razor-thin margin.

Between the lines: The rivals offered similar positions on many core issues to Democratic voters, but had notably different views on policing and public safety.

Yes, and: Although Omar secured the DFL Party endorsement, a number of prominent local officials, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and former Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, bucked the incumbent to back Samuels.

What they're saying: In a statement, Omar said she was "honored" to advance and be on the path to a third Congressional term.

  • “Tonight’s victory is a testament to how much our district believes in the collective values we are fighting for and how much they’re willing to do to help us overcome defeat," she said.

In his concession speech, Samuels said his campaign came "so close" and took on "such a Goliath of a challenge."

  • "When you get the obligatory endorsements of the speaker of the House, and other DFL leaders, it's tough to beat. To come this close, means that we have our finger on the pulse of the exhausted majority," he said, according to WCCO-TV. 

State of play: Omar's latest primary win contrasts with convincing victories in her first two races.

Flashback: Omar, a refugee and former state lawmaker, made history in 2018 as the first Somali American elected to Congress.

  • She gained national attention as a leader in the progressive caucus and for a series of political and personal controversies during her two terms.
  • She has also drawn criticism, both from her Democratic colleagues and from within her district, for comments and votes critical of Israel.

What's next: Omar will face Republican nominee Cicely Davis in the heavily Democratic district in November.

Axios' Andrew Solender contributed to this report.

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