For the last 15 months, I have waited in vain for Rep. Ilhan Omar to rise to the occasion of prioritizing the needs of the Fifth Congressional District above many of her distractions, which have garnered national headlines and attention. As a resident of the Fifth, an attorney and longtime advocate for equity and justice, I see every day the lingering effects of benign neglect upon our community as well as a desire for real change and access to opportunity.
As I read Antone Melton-Meaux's opinion piece ("Here's why I'm challenging Rep. Ilhan Omar," April 7). I couldn't help but feel excited about the possibility of new leadership that will put our needs first and will be self-disciplined in using a powerful platform and political capital to improve the quality of life for all of us.
Multiple reasons have influenced my decision to support Melton-Meaux over Omar in the upcoming primary election. First, my professional experience working with Melton-Meaux as a mediator on a civil rights case has given me insight into his character, integrity, problem-solving skills and ability to resolve conflict.
Second, my personal experience with Melton-Meaux has shown me that he is thoughtful, highly intelligent, humble, incredibly hardworking and approachable.
Third, although Melton-Meaux did not spend a lot of time in his piece touting his credentials, he is clearly a highly qualified candidate, given his vast experience as an attorney, small business owner, mediator, minister, and through his work with young people in our community.
He has also served on the boards of the Page Education Foundation, College Possible, the Guthrie Theater, Northrop at the University of Minnesota and as a volunteer lawyer with the Children's Law Center. His academic credentials are also stellar, having obtained his law degree from the top-ranked law school at the University of Virginia, a master's from Union Theological Seminary, and graduated as an All-American athlete and All-American academic from Washington University in St. Louis. Melton-Meaux has also served as the former chair of the Dispute Resolution Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association.
It is not every day that a candidate like this comes along.
It's evident that Melton-Meaux has always been deeply invested in the success of the Fifth District and will continue to invest the time, energy and effort that it takes to get things done. Melton-Meaux's humility should not get in the way of his stellar qualifications to serve as our representative.
I find it to be refreshing that Melton-Meaux pulled no punches in his opinion piece in highlighting the significant concerns surrounding Omar's dismal track record, her lack of presence when it's time to vote in Congress, and her failure to pass any significant legislation until the COVID-19 Relief Act, which only happened very recently. These are issues that we ought to be paying attention to, so we're able to make an informed decision about who our next leader will be.
Contrary to the "rebuttal" written by Omar's campaign treasurer, Kate Wittenstein, ("Ilhan Omar: her challenger is unconvincing," April 8) I find it disingenuous to accuse Melton-Meaux of using "dog whistles to Islamaphobia" and engaging in "race, class and gender erasure" simply because he spoke the uncontroverted truth about Omar's concerning record.
When examining a candidate's record, it's important to provide critiques, regardless of their identity, provided those critiques are fair, objective and based upon the truth. In responding to critiques of Omar, Wittenstein placed the blame on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Omar's failure to get a single bill out of a House committee before January. Omar is a member of the House of Representatives controlled by the Democrats, so this explanation falls short and exemplifies Omar's inability to get things done within her own party.
Wittenstein also claims Melton-Meaux made significant omissions. However, after touting Omar's support for the Liberian community, Wittenstein conveniently fails to mention that Omar voted against the bill that granted them permanent resident status.
When all is said and done, the Fifth District deserves a leader who will put our interests first, and one who will be accountable and transparent. There is too much at stake to allow another two years of what we have experienced over the last 15 months. We deserve better. Fortunately, now we can choose a better representative, Antone Melton-Meaux.
Nekima Levy Armstrong is a civil rights attorney, former law professor, activist, and community leader.