Report: Minnesota Democrats want a challenger to take on Rep. Ilhan Omar in next year’s primary

March 17, 2019

Report: Minnesota Democrats want a challenger to take on Rep. Ilhan Omar in next year’s primary Phil Pasquini / Shutterstock.com

After passing an ineffective House resolution condemning “all hateful expressions of intolerance,” Democrats in Washington seemed content to forget all about controversial and allegedly anti-Semitic comments made by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar (D). But those closer to Minneapolis aren’t letting her off the hook so easily.

Seeking a harsher, more permanent penalty for the freshman congresswoman, local Democratic leaders are reportedly in the process of looking for a candidate to challenge Omar in next year’s primary for Minnesota’s 5th District.

Will Omar be replaced after just one term?

One-Term Congresswoman?

Talk of limiting Omar’s time in Congress to just one term comes amid continued outrage over comments Omar made about Israel. The controversy began in February when the freshman representative invoked an offensive Jewish stereotype to suggest that support for Israel among American lawmakers is “all about the Benjamins baby.”

She faced renewed backlash after suggesting in later remarks that Jewish Americans are not fully loyal to the United States.

Omar at first faced condemnations from leaders on both sides of the political aisle, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and even President Donald Trump himself. But Democrats walked back their rebuke of Omar earlier this month, when a resolution meant to call out Omar was watered down so much that it didn’t even mention the congresswoman by name.

Now, just a couple of months after Omar took her seat in Congress, Minnesota party leaders unhappy with the complacency of Dems in Washington are in search of someone to oust the freshman representative in the next election. But thus far, no suitable challenger has been found.

“There’s definitely some buzz going around about it, but it’s more a buzz of is anyone talking about finding someone to run against her than it is anyone saying they’re going to run against her or contemplate it,” state Sen. Ron Latz (D), who represents a portion of Omar’s district, told The Hill. “There’s definitely talk about people wanting someone to run against her.”

An Uphill Battle

But even with the freshman congresswoman’s offensive remarks looming, getting the better of her in Minnesota’s 5th District — one of the country’s most progressive congressional districts — will be no easy task. Only two incumbent representatives from Minnesota have ever lost in a primary. (The most recent instance of this occurred more than a century ago.)

Worse still, none of the state’s Democratic incumbents have ever failed to be renominated by the party.

But perhaps the biggest problem for Democrats seeking to oust Omar is her grip on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party. She won the group’s endorsement — which comes with benefits like access to exclusive voter lists and other data — quite easily in 2018, and is expected to do the same next time around.

“The DFL endorsement is a huge advantage,” Corey Day, a former executive director of the Minnesota DFL, told The Hill. “The real fight is usually for the DFL endorsement or to block it.”

Looking Forward

A spokesperson for Omar’s campaign told The Hill that the congresswomen would not fear a challenger, should one be found.

“Ilhan entered a 10-week six-way primary and she believes you get what you organize for,” the spokesperson said. “She organized her district to win and she’s really excited to do that again over the next two years.”

Is this the beginning of the end for Omar? Only time will tell.

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Robert Ayers

Robert Ayers is a writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Quinnipiac University and a JD from the University of Connecticut.