First-term U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar won the DFL endorsement Sunday to run in the Aug. 11 primary election for a Minneapolis-based congressional seat that has been in Democrats’ hands since 1963.
The party endorsement sets up a primary race with Antone Melton-Meaux, an attorney-mediator and political newcomer whose campaign has been based on a series of critiques of Omar’s stormy first 16-months in Congress.
The DFL balloting was conducted online over a nine-day period after the pandemic made in-person congressional conventions impossible.
Omar, 37, was first elected to Congress in 2018 after a rapid rise through the state Legislature. She was the first Somali-American elected to both a state Legislature and to Congress. She has cut a high-profile path in Washington, championing a litany of progressive causes and publicly sparring on Twitter with President Donald Trump, which has made her a frequent target of the right.
Omar also faced criticism last year from Jewish leaders and some fellow Democrats for several past tweets and remarks about the political influence of Israel. She faced another significant uproar for voting “present” on last year’s House resolution condemning the Armenian genocide. She said the measure should have more broadly condemned human rights abuses worldwide, including in the U.S.
Her campaign operation also has been the subject of scrutiny after it was revealed that she had a romantic relationship with a D.C.-based political consultant, to whom she is now married.
Both Omar and Melton-Meaux are running as progressive Democrats and champions of immigrant rights. But Melton-Meaux, 47, has vowed to focus more of the needs of the Fifth Congressional District, which includes St. Louis Park, Richfield, Crystal, Robbinsdale, Golden Valley, New Hope, Fridley an parts of Edina.
Congressional incumbents rarely lose party backing for endorsement, and Melton-Meaux earlier committed to running in the DFL primary in August in the event he fails to get the endorsement. He has racked up a handful of high-profile endorsements from Minneapolis-area DFLers, and has had some success in fundraising.
The Republican-endorsed candidate is Lacy Johnson, a north Minneapolis businessman who has encouraged black voters to abandon the Democratic Party. But the strongly DFL district has not elected a Republican to Congress in decades.
DFLers in northeastern Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District also voted to endorse health care advocate Quinn Nystrom to challenge Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber in November.