Trouble may be brewing in one of the country’s most progressive congressional districts, Minnesota’s Fifth. After a national controversy caused by her comments about Israel, congresswoman Ilhan Omar, may be facing a primary challenge next year, and a lot of Democrats are upset about it.
Omar’s remarks seem to have split Minnesota Democrats into two camps: those who were (and are) aghast at what she said, and those who were not shocked by her comments but are shocked that fellow Democrats will try to unseat the 37 year old Muslim who was born in Mogadishu, Somalia.
There have been reports that some members of her own party are actively taking steps to recruit a candidate to run against her in next year’s primary election. According to an analysis done by the University of Minnesota, such a move would “buck history.”
Several party leaders have reportedly had discussions trying to find another candidate to oppose Omar, who is just two months into her first term in Congress.
However, the people who were most deeply offended by Omar’s comments about Israel have admitted that they have not yet found anyone willing to challenge her in the primary.
Minnesota state senator Ron Latz (D), who represents a portion of Omar’s district, had this to say:
“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. There’s definitely talk about people wanting someone to run against her.”
In her first two months on the job Omar created a national stir due to her comments that critics said were anti-Semitic. For example, she said that politicians who support Israel do it for financial reasons. Then she said that Israeli lobbyists are pushing for “allegiance to a foreign country.”
In Minnesota, Omar’s constituents have been very aware of her comments and the ensuing controversy.
“Our community is exasperated by Rep. Omar’s unfulfilled promises to listen and learn from Jewish constituents while seemingly simultaneously finding another opportunity to make an anti-Semitic remark and insult our community,” Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota said in a statement.
Omar met with Hunegs last month, after her initial remarks were widely condemned. She has continued to meet with Jewish leaders both in Minneapolis and Washington and has apologized for appearing to be anti-Semitic, which she claims she is not.
“Unfortunately, having the opportunity to speak with her about that point didn’t dissuade her making that statement,” Hunegs told The Hill in an interview Wednesday. “We were appalled.”
Some Democrats want Bobby Joe Champion, a state senator who has served in the legislature for a decade to run against Omar.
Another possible candidate includes Minneapolis City Councilwoman Andrea Jenkins, the first openly transgender African-American woman elected to public office in the United States.
But finding a challenger to take on Omar is a difficult prospect.
No House Democrat from Minnesota has ever lost a bid for renomination, according to the University of Minnesota study.
A representative for Omar’s campaign said they do not fear a primary challenge.
“Ilhan entered a 10 week six-way primary and she believes you get what you organize for. She organized her district to win and she’s really excited to do that again over the next two years,” a campaign spokesman said.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.