At the outset of the 2024 national election cycle, it
appeared that there would be no serious races likely
for the eight-seat Minnesota delegation to the U.S.
House of Representatives.
In the past few days, that scenario has dramatically
changed in at least two races.
Incumbent 5th District DFL Congresswoman Ilhan
Omar, one of the radical progressive members of
the “Squad” group in Congress, made statements
seen by many as anti-Israel in the current flare-up
of hostilities following an October 7 surprise attack
on Israel by Hamas terrorists that killed 1200 Israelis,
wounding thousands more, and 240 being taken as
hostages back to the territory of Gaza. Her statements
seemed in sharp contrast to the overwhelming bipartisan
support for Israel by her congressional colleagues.
Although she narrowly won DFL renomination two
years before when challenged by former DFL city
council member Don Samuels, it was generally
believed she would not face such a serious opponent
in 2024, but her controversial comments apparently
have caused Mr. Samuels to announce his candidacy
The 5th District is a very safe DFL district. Republicans
make up only about 25-30% of its electorate. In 2022,
most observers did not think Samuels could defeat the
congresswoman in the primary, and the close final
result was a surprise. In 2024, his candidacy will be
taken very seriously. The 5th District has the largest
number of Jewish voters in the state, most of whom
are DFLers who supported Ilhan Omar in the past. In
the wake of her recent statements, she is likely to lose
much of that support, and if a sizable number of
Republicans cross over to vote for Samuels in the
primary, her renomination could be in trouble next year.
In the neighboring 3rd Congressional District, incumbent
DFL Congressman Dean Phillips had won his third term
handily in 2022, and his re-election seemed secure. But
Democratic President Joe Biden, now 81 and appearing
frail, has been sinking in public opinion polls, and has
been trailing Republican opponents, In spite of this, no
truly serious Democrat has challenged him for
renomination. Phillips, who had supported Biden in 2020,
initially urged the president to retire. When he did not,
the congressman announced his candidacy for president,
and launched a full-scale campaign in New Hampshire.
Phillips was criticized by many Democrats, and one DFL
legislator announced she would run against him in the
primary in 2024 (assuming he would run for re-election
after a presumed failure to defeat Biden).
But Congressman Phillips has now announced he will
not run for re-election in 2024 no matter what the
outcome of his presidential bid.
Although this relatively purple district was a safe DFL
seat with incumbent Phillips running for re-election, it is
potentially competitive as an open seat. A number of
DFLers will now get into this race. A strong GOP nominee
could win in 2024. That candidate might be Kendall
Qualls, a businessman and Army veteran who was the
Republican nominee for this seat in 2020, and in 2022
ran for governor. He lost both times, but made a good
impression as an articulate candidate. Other 3rd District
Republicans might also announce.
The Minnesota congressional race that has been the most
competitive in recent years is the 2nd District, also now
a relatively purple area — although increasingly DFL with
new residents moving in the area from nearby Minneapolis.
Incumbent DFL Congresswoman Angie Craig has had
close races in the past, but might have an easier time in 2024.
No Republican challenger has yet emerged as her likely
opponent next year.
The 5th District is not a GOP pick-up opportunity, but most
Republicans and many DFLers would prefer Omar be replaced
with the more moderate Samuels. The 3rd District, following
Phillips’ retirement announcement, favors the DFL candidate
as an open seat, but 2024 looks like an extraordinary and
unpredictable campaign cycle, and anything might happen.
Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.