It was closer than she wanted, but progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) narrowly defeated centrist Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels in their primary matchup Tuesday night, winning on a margin that indicates a much shakier standing in her Minneapolis district than most expected.
Samuels ran largely on backlash to Omar’s leftist positions, including her support for defunding the police, which has become a hot-button issue in Minneapolis since the murder of George Floyd in 2020. The congresswoman is one of the most liberal members of the House Democratic Caucus, and she has occasionally bucked the party on major policy votes alongside the rest of the so-called progressive “squad.”
Although he ultimately lost, Samuels’ candidacy appears to have struck a chord with some voters’ distaste for Omar’s progressive approach. At the point the AP called her race, she was only about 2 percentage points ahead.
Leading up to the primary election, Omar remained seemingly unfazed. Not only did she have the benefit of incumbency, but she was backed by a number high-profile progressive figures, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Samuels did benefit from some last-minute endorsements, including from Minneapolist Mayor Jacob Frey. But his challenge ultimately fell short—and he conceded the race to Omar around 10:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday night.
Omar isn’t the first member of the squad to survive a close primary challenge this year. Both Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) faced centrist primary challengers, though they both prevailed with more comfortable margins.
Omar has received primary challenges in years past—including lawyer Antone Melton-Meaux, who she beat by a healthy margin. But the close call Tuesday night may be an indication that another Democratic challenger could take her down in another primary.
Luckily for Omar, her district is heavily Democratic, meaning she likely has two more years to figure out her electability issues, as she faces little chance of losing re-election in the general election this November.
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