MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You may have seen Antone Melton-Meaux in a series of political ads running the last few weeks. The Democrat is challenging well-known incumbent Rep. Ilhan Omar in the primary in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District.

His ads are paid for with some of the $3.2 million he’s raised in the last three months — six times more money than Omar has raised in the same period.

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WCCO’s Frank Vascellaro sat down with the political newcomer, who has a number of prominent Democrats backing him, to learn more about him.

The Meaux family can trace their roots to a momentous day on a Kentucky plantation in 1820.

“The slaves were freed and given land and tools to work the land, that slave owner’s name was John Meaux. I’m one of the descendants of the slaves of John Meaux,” Melton-Meaux said.

The candidate’s father, Clemet, was a paratrooper in Vietnam who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He showed us his father’s helmet which is riddled with holes. Melton-Meaux said the damage came from shrapnel from a grenade explosion in a bunker.

“It was a grenade. He lived through that. Everyone else in the bunker died. He’s the only one who survived,” he said.

Melton-Meaux explained his family history in his Minneapolis home with his wife and two children, who attend Minneapolis Public Schools.

Most of his answers would steer back to local political issues. That’s not a coincidence. He’s trying to draw a sharp contrast to his opponent. Melton-Meaux calls Omar divisive and he says Omar is out of touch with her district.

“It’s not time for someone that wants to be a celebrity, it’s time for someone that wants to do the work. It’s not time for someone that wants to burn bridges, it’s time for someone that wants to bring people together, that wants to get things done,” he said.

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He points to the day after George Floyd died.

“I was there protesting and marching and speaking out, and I believe she was launching her book tour that evening, if I can recall, virtually, instead of being with the people, and I think that’s important,” he said.

Omar did appear on “Good Morning America” the morning after George Floyd died to promote her memoir, and the virtual book tour continued that evening. However, she was in Minneapolis later that week. Her campaign says she attended protests nearly every night and spoke at multiple rallies.

Melton-Meaux says his tone and demeanor will also separate him from Omar. He’s an attorney who runs his own mediation law firm.

“What I do is work with people in deep disputes, and we do the hard work of listening to one another to find commonality and creative solutions and then getting things done,” he said.

Others are listening too. Several prominent Minnesotans are endorsing Melton-Meaux, like former U.S. Attorney Andy Luger, former Medtronic CEO Bill George, civil rights activist Nekima Levy-Armstrong, Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris, and civil rights activist Josie Johnson.

“Not only a is a good father, but a good husband a good citizen, one who listens. That’s what’s been very impressive to me. He’s a listener,” Johnson said.

Recent events have forced Melton-Meaux’s campaign to pivot, but he thinks that’s actually an advantage.

“If COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd have taught us anything it’s that leadership matters, and it’s never mattered more, and that is very clear to me that people understand that message and see it in my campaign,” Melton-Meaux said.

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Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Omar’s re-election bid on Thursday. Three other Democratic candidates are challenging her: Les Lester, John Mason, and Daniel McCarthy. The primary to determine who’s on the ballot this fall is next month.

Frank Vascellaro