MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — Rep. Ilhan Omar is about to learn whether voters in her Minneapolis-area congressional district support the mix of confrontational, anti-Trump progressivism and celebrity that she brings to the job.
Omar, the first Somali American and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, is facing a surprisingly well-funded challenger in Minnesota’s Democratic primaries on Tuesday. Antone Melton-Meaux, a Black lawyer and mediator, raised millions of anti-Omar dollars to fill mailboxes and flood airwaves. His “Focused on the Fifth” message has portrayed Omar, a member of “The Squad” of four progressive female lawmakers, as out of touch with the 5th District.
Omar rejected Melton-Meaux’s attacks, saying they were funded by interests that wanted to get her out of Congress because she’s effective. She also downplayed Melton-Meaux’s money and played up her ground game before the vote, saying, “Organized people will always beat organized money.”
This is also the most expensive Congressional primary in Minnesota history, with more than $7 million spent so far.
The race has been very bitter, with negative attacks on both sides. WCCO’s Esme Murphy reports that, on this final day, there’s yet another controversy over texts that people have been getting which appear to urge conservatives to vote in the DFL primary for Melton-Meaux. The language urges “all patriots” to vote for him.
Melton-Meaux was out campaigning in North Minneapolis Tuesday morning. Rep. Ilhan Omar was shaking hands at El Mercado Central in South Minneapolis, but was also giving squirts of hand sanitizer to all those she spoke with. Both addressed the last-minute text controversy.
“Everything in this campaign has felt troubling, not just the amount of money that is coming in but the very overt xenophobic messaging, and so this is just an expansion of that,” Omar said.
Melton-Meaux disavowed any knowledge of the texts while talking with Murphy.
“We don’t condone it as part of our process. We want residents to make their own choices. We don’t need the propaganda for this election,” Melton-Meaux said.
RELATED: WCCO’s Primary Election Guide
Omar has been a lightning rod through her first term, accused of anti-Semitic remarks. And critics have made a great deal out of Omar using her own husband as a campaign consultant and paying him more than a million dollars. Her husband is a well known progressive consultant and that does not violate any campaign laws. Omar has also stood up to President Donald Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban,” and she has passed a bill to keep school lunches coming even during the pandemic.
The outcome may not be known Tuesday night if the results are close, and both candidates are expressing optimism they will win and that a winner will be declared Tuesday night. The Secretary of State has said because of the large number of absentees it could be days before we know the winner. Absentee voting in Minnesota was heavy, and officials must count mail-in ballots that arrive as late as Thursday under safety rules imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Omar is also facing three other Democratic primary challengers: Les Lester, John Mason and Daniel McCarthy. Because the district leans so heavily Democratic, Tuesday’s primary is widely expected to pick the winner.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)