Don Samuels campaigned against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar for just five months in 2022 and came closer to defeating her than any challenger before him. This year, Samuels says, he'll get the job done with more time and money on his side.

Omar, who largely ignored Samuels' candidacy two years ago, said she doesn't think their rematch will be as close. The nationally known Minneapolis congresswoman said her attention was divided in the previous election as she tried to help other Democrats on the ballot. That won't be the case this year, she said.

"We just have more resources set aside to be able to do what we have always done, which is to get the votes out, to get people energized, to be at every corner of the district," Omar said in an interview. "2022 was an anomaly."

The rematch between Omar and Samuels in August will likely be one of the most closely watched Democratic primary elections in the country. The winner will almost certainly be elected in November because the Fifth Congressional District, which covers Minneapolis and nearby suburbs, is reliably blue. For now, the two Democrats have their eyes on the district's May 11 endorsing convention, where they will fight for their party's endorsement.

Two lesser-known Democrats, Air Force veteran Tim Peterson and attorney Sarah Gad, are also in the race.

Samuels came close to defeating Omar two years ago after hammering the incumbent on the campaign trail for her support of the failed ballot measure that would have dismantled the Minneapolis Police Department. That issue might not be as salient this time around.

But Samuels, a Jamaican immigrant and former Minneapolis City Council member, said Omar remains a divisive figure within the district. He criticized her for not voting in Minnesota's presidential primary election this month and making what he sees as mostly one-sided comments about the war in Gaza.

"She still has not found a position that includes the sensibilities of the Jewish community and the Muslim community. She is being perceived as picking a side," Samuels said. "I'm going to be able to communicate a message of healing and of unity, and the desire to bring people together across the divides."

Omar has been an outspoken critic of Israel's government and an advocate for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. If the Fifth District primary comes down to that issue, Omar said, she's confident in her chances. She said many of her constituents support a truce.

"I do believe that a majority of our voters, we're on the right side with them," she said.

Omar accused Samuels of seeking campaign cash from the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC. The pro-Israel lobbying group and its allies has spent millions of dollars in previous election cycles. In 2022, a super PAC affiliated with AIPAC spent $350,000 against Omar.

Joe Radinovich, who manages the Samuels campaign, said it has received no AIPAC money this cycle but is open to considering it. He and Samuels criticized Omar for fundraising off the issue.

"If Ilhan continues to announce that I have taken money from or am in collusion with AIPAC, it's going to be very difficult to resist not taking [the group's money] when in fact she's raising money on that basis," Samuels said.

AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann said in an email that the group is "currently evaluating races involving detractors of the US-Israel relationship."

Omar raised about $1.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to her campaign finance report. Samuels raised about $355,000, though he did so the six weeks after launching his campaign in mid-November.

The Samuels campaign doesn't expect to outraise the congresswoman but hopes to outwork her. Radinovich said the campaign has more organizers talking to voters than it did in the previous cycle. The campaign likely will air television ads later this spring.

Samuels has attended local precinct caucuses and state Senate district conventions to woo delegates before the May endorsing convention. If he can't win the DFL endorsement, he said, he hopes to at least block Omar from getting it.

"If for the first time in her congressional career she didn't run with the state party's endorsement, it would send a significant message," Radinovich said.

Omar was unfazed by the notion.

"They can try. They're not going to be successful," she said. "We have not lost an endorsement since I ran for Congress."

Omar said she's served her district well by securing federal funding for local projects and as an advocate for reproductive and voting rights.

"The issues that my opponent is running on are all the issues that I've been a champion on," Omar said.

Minneapolis City Council President Elliott Payne backs Omar, saying she's been attuned to her community's needs and not beholden to corporate interests. He said he thinks her rematch against Samuels will not be as close with the police ballot measure further in the past.

"It was really hard to disentangle the local politics in Minneapolis" during the previous election, Payne said. "I honestly think it had a lot to do with that."

But Omar's critics fault her for more than her support of the failed policing ballot measure.

Todd Otis, a former state legislator and Minnesota DFL chair who lives in Minneapolis, said Omar hasn't shown a willingness to consistently work across the aisle. Otis endorsed Samuels, saying the challenger has the right temperament to break through political polarization.

"He doesn't have a closed fist. He has an open hand that wants to help," Otis said. "I think the election, in a way, is about the spirit of the country, and I think Don embodies what we need more of."