Image via Shutterstock Rep. Ilhan Omar
Image via Shutterstock

Omar took home an even bigger slice of the vote than in her first campaign, logging 57% of the votes cast compared to the 48% during the 2018 primary.

Despite predictions of an upset, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar easily beat her well-funded opponents in the primary for her heavily Democratic district. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the former Somali refugee will return to Congress for another term as one of the only two Muslim women ever elected to serve in Congress. 

Her biggest challenger, Antone Melton-Meaux, raised $3.2 million in the second quarter, mainly from anti-Omar donors who took issue with her outspoken style and criticism of the state of Israel. The two nearly tied in fundraising totals, and her rival sought to paint her political stances as too nationally focused. 

But Omar took home an even bigger slice of the vote than in her first campaign, logging 57% of the votes cast compared to the 48% during the 2018 primary. Melton-Meaux got 39% of the vote.

“In Minnesota, organized people will always beat organized money. Tonight our movement didn’t just win, we earned a mandate for change,” she tweeted. “Despite the attacks, our support has only grown.”

A member of the “Squad,” a group of progressive freshmen Congresswomen that includes Ayana Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and the newly-ascendant Cori Bush, Omar was part of the “Blue Wave” that hit the U.S. capitol in the 2018 midterm elections. She gained national attention as one to watch in the House of Representatives, and her embrace of left-wing politics won her loyal followers and high-ranking enemies. 

President Trump has repeatedly voiced his opposition to the Squad as a whole and Omar in particular, calling her “an America-hating socialist” at a rally last year in Minneapolis. He also said members of the Squad should “go back” to where they came from, though Omar is the only member not born in the United States. 

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Instead, she doubled down on working for her constituents. In April, as the White House struggled to respond to the coronavirus epidemic, Omar introduced bold and ambitious legislation to cancel rent and mortgage payments. She sought to make federal funds for landlords and lenders dependent on their compliance with fair renting and lending practices, and to establish a fund for not-for-profits and community land trusts to purchase private rental properties. In early summer her father died due to complications from coronavirus. 

Omar continued pushing for equity in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, emerging as a champion of police reform. She joined activists and organizers in backing the Minneapolis City Council’s move to dismantle the police department, crossing wires with establishment Democrats who shied away from talk of abolishing police. 

“A new way forward can’t be put in place if we have a department that is having a crisis of credibility, if we have a department that’s led by a chief who’s suited for racism, if we have a department that hasn’t solved homicide — half of the homicides in Minneapolis police department go unsolved,” she said. “You can’t really reform a department that is rotten to the root. What you can do is rebuild.”

Omar’s Tuesday night victory hands Squad members a clean sweep in their primaries so far, and Pressley is not facing a challenger for her upcoming contest. It fuels the movement of progressive Democratic candidates, who are seeing continued success.

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Ocasio-Cortez congratulated Omar publicly, retweeting filmmaker Ava Duvernay’s message: “@IlhanMN joins @AOC and @RashidaTlaib in winning her primary election despite horrible attacks and tremendous amounts of money spent to defeat her. All that energy and all those dollars wasted, ‘cause these ladies aren’t going anywhere.”