The Fifth congressional district of Minnesota includes the
city of Minneapolis and some of its upscale suburbs, and it
is one of the safest Democratic seats in the nation. The
incumbent is Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born first-termer, who
won the seat in 2018 when the then-incumbent retired to run
for state attorney general at the last moment. Controversies
about her political views and personal life have surrounded
Ms. Omar from the outset, and became magnified as she
joined a group of four known as the “The Squad” in
Congress, each of which spoke out with views from the far
left of their party on both domestic and international issues.
Nevertheless, MN-5 is one of the most liberal urban districts
in the nation, and her advocacy of Medicare For All , Green
New Deal, and ceaseless criticism of President Trump, for
examples, seemed to reflect the views of a majority of
voters in the district, and it was expected that she would
easily be re-elected in 2020.
A number of candidates filed against her in the Democratic
(in Minnesota called the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party or
DFL), but the opposition to Ms. Omar appears to have
coalesced behind Antone Melton-Meaux, a respected black
attorney and self-described lifelong progressive Democrat,
who felt, noting Ms. Omar frequently missed House votes,
she was a detriment to the interests of the district’s residents.
With his own attractive family (his wife is a prominent local
surgeon), he cites his community activism, including working
with foster children and as a volunteer minister at a social
Melton-Meaux has significantly out-raised Omar for campaign
funding, Also, am independent PAC is mailing out a steady
stream of sophisticated campaign literature to voters in the
district --- literature which constantly reminds them of Omar’s
Although there is a Republican primary and candidate, a
significant number of GOP voters could opt to choose the
DFL primsry ballot to vote against Omar. Republicans usually
provide 25-30% of the district vote. MN-5 has the largest
number of Jewish voters in any state district, primarily in the
Minneapolis suburbs. Most of them vote DFL, and most of
them voted for Omar in 2018, but after her steady stream of
anti-Israel comments, many of them are more likely to vote in
2020 for Melton-Meaux.
Because of Omar’s national notoriety, local observers point
out, this race has drawn increasing national attention and
campaign funding for both major candidates.
One of the strengths of the DFL in urban areas is its Get Out
The Vote (GOTV) organization. In a primary such as this one,
however, the DFL is likely to have a good turnout --- but it
might not be clear if the effort is turning out Melton-Meaux
voters or Omar voters. As well, the challenger’s supporters
might be more energized to vote. On the other hand, most
DFL leaders are at least publicly supporting incumbent Omar
(even if they have private doubts about her). and are now
scrambling to help her.
With less than three weeks until the primary, incumbent Omar
remains the favorite to win renomination, but her challenger
Melton-Meaux appears to be rising fast with an increasingly
formidable campaign. Only days ago, his chances
seemed impossible, but with less than a month to go, a grass
roots political storm appears to be forming.
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.