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The Squad stays winning: Rep. Ilhan Omar blows away primary competition in Minnesota fifth district race

“The Squad” is growing and Rep. Omar’s primary victory means she will continue to push for progressive policies in Congress. 

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Representative Ilhan Omar defeated a well-funded primary challenger, Antone Melton-Meaux, on Tuesday and with her district being heavily Democratic, she is likely to serve a second term in Congress. 

Melton-Meaux, an attorney, built his campaign around accusing Omar of chasing fame instead of serving her community. 

“We don’t need celebrities seeking the limelight. We need people that are willing to serve you,” he said while campaigning.

Throughout Rep. Omar’s first term in the House, she has faced criticism from President Donald Trump, who has labeled her as an “America-hating Socialist” and an “anti-semite” for condemning Israel and its alliance with the U.S. 

Melton-Meaux received $417,000 from pro-Israel groups. The chair of the House Foreign Affairs committee Eliot Engel was the only other congressional candidate to receive more from pro-Israel groups taking in over $1.5 million. 

Engel, a 15-term incumbent from New York’s 16th congressional district, also lost his primary to progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman who was a middle school principal.

When Omar first ran for Congress in 2018, she received 48.2% of the vote in her primary, but in this year’s primary she expanded her base and won in a landslide. 

The progressive congresswoman obtained 57.4% of the vote on Tuesday compared to Melton-Meaux’s 39.1% with a difference of over 29,000 votes. 

The voting record of Minnesota’s fifth congressional district indicates that Omar will remain their representative after her general election against Republican Lacy Johnson. 

She defeated her GOP opponent in 2018 by more than 56 points and The Cook Political Report marks her district as having a +26 partisan voting index.

The district is no stranger to sending progressives to Congress and the person who held the seat before Omar was Keith Ellison. 

He was the first Muslim elected to Congress and in 2016, sought the chair of the Democratic National Committee. But after loyalists of President Barack Obama supported Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Ellison was given the consolation prize of being the party’s first deputy chair. 

Serving in the House from 2007 to 2019, Ellison did not seek reelection in 2018 to chase the seat of Attorney General of Minnesota. 

Omar broke several barriers in 2018 as she became the first Somali-American, naturalized citizen of African birth and woman of color to represent Minnesota in Congress. 

She joined representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, Rashida Tlaib from Michigan and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusets to form “The Squad,” a group of four progressive women of color who were elected to Congress in 2018. 

All four women are all but guaranteed to return to Congress for another term and they have managed to grow their coalition with more progressives winning in tight primary races across the country. 

Most notably were the additions of Bowman from New York and Cori Bush from Missouri. 

Bush defeated 10-term incumbent congressman Lacy Clay, whose father, Bill Clay, held the seat before him, meaning she put an end to a 52-year dynasty. 

Grassroots movements and Democratic Socialists insurgencies are popular across the country and not just in heavily-Democratic congressional districts.

Kentucky state representative Charles Booker shocked the world when he nearly defeated Amy McGrath in the race to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel in November. 

He became more well known after participating in Black Lives Matter protests following the shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY in March.  

Booker, who was endorsed by Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders, advocated for policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. 

Even though Booker was extremely outraised by a candidate who was favored by Senate minority leader Chuck Schummer and labeled a “Pro-Trump Democrat,” he came within three points of defying the odds.  

After former vice president Joe Biden announced that Senator Kamala Harris would be his running mate, it cements the fact that progressives will not have a voice in the White House if the ticket were to win. 

Figures like Reps. Omar and Ocasio-Cortez were motivated to run for office because of their opposition to the neoliberal ideology of Biden and Harris, but the growing “Squad” will have to balance challenging the establishment while finding ways to work with them to push their agenda. 

The left-wing part of the Democratic Party will need to continue to pick up seats in November and in the 2022 midterms so that a potential Biden administration will be forced to listen to their policy proposals.

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