Ilhan Omar's narrow victory highlights vulnerability of progressive Democrat

Ilhan Omar's narrow victory highlights vulnerability of progressive Democrat
Ilhan Omar's narrow primary victory has highlighted the vulnerability of a Congress member whose national and international popularity among progressives might not be in line with the local concerns of her constituents.
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
11 August, 2022
Ilhan Omar's narrow primary victory shows possible vulnerability in her support [Getty]

Ilhan Omar's narrow primary win this week has shown a vulnerability for the progressive congresswoman that was largely unexpected in the lead-up to the race.  

With few major polls available in the two months before the race, the public had a June poll to rely on that had Omar leading her challenger by around 40 points. But on election night on Tuesday, she won by around two percentage points, far narrower than her 20-point 2020 primary win against Antone Melton-Meaux. This latest race is the narrowest win for a Squad member so far. 

Omar's primary victory was a far smaller margin than was predicted, even though her hometown mayor and main newspaper, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, had endorsed her more moderate challenger, Don Samuels, possibly pointing to local issues that had been missed by national news coverage of her work. 

Most of the focus of Samuels' campaign and the argument to replace Omar focused on her support of the "defund the police" movement, which gained popularity following the 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

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Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member who immigrated from Jamaica as a young man, lives in the northern part of the city where high crime has led many residents to question the effectiveness of reallocating resources away from the police department. 

Last year, he (along with his wife and neighbours) successfully sued the city for understaffing of the police department. The city also reversed the decision to defund the police.  

Possibly the person who has more of a beef with Omar is Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, who gave an interview in which he didn't hold back criticising Omar's policies following her narrow victory. 

Frey, who endorsed Samuels in his bid to oust Omar, described her as "mean-spirited" and making the race about herself.

He also said that holding office is not just about sending out vitriolic tweets, but about working with others. He has said he has no working relationship with her, and she has not been responsive to his requests for meetings at his office. 

The fifth congressional district of Minnesota is largely Democratic, making Omar’s primary win almost a guaranteed general election victory. The thin margin, however, could open the door for future serious primary challengers.