Ilhan Omar narrowly wins the US House of Representatives primary in Minnesota


Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, a member of the Progressive Squad, scored a closer-than-expected Democratic primary victory Tuesday against a centrist challenger who questioned the incumbent’s support for the “defund the police” movement.

The night was much calmer for another progressive, Becca Balint, who won the House Democratic primary in Vermont, positioning her to become the first woman to represent the state in Congress.

A key race was unfolding in western Wisconsin, where Democratic Rep. Ron Kind’s retirement after 26 years in office opens up a seat in a district that has been leaning Republican. The Republican candidate vying to replace Kind is a former Navy SEAL who attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on January 6, 2021, which preceded the insurrection at the US Capitol.

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Omar, who represents Minneapolis and is one of the leading voices on the left in Congress, has championed calls to redirect public safety funding more toward community programs. He clashed with former city councilman Don Samuels, whose base in north Minneapolis sees more violent crime than other parts of the city.

Samuels argued that Omar is divisive and helped defeat a ballot question last year that sought to replace the city’s police department with a new public safety unit. He and others also successfully sued the city to compel it to meet the minimum police staffing levels required by Minneapolis statutes.

Samuels said his narrow loss shows Omar is beatable: “If this were the general election, we would have won this race without a doubt.” Omar responded, “Tonight’s victory is a testament to how much our district believes in the collective values ​​we hold.” they are fighting for.”

Barb Atkinson, a 53-year-old part-time event planner for a radio station who supported Samuels, called Omar “too far to the left.”

“Although I respect Ilhan Omar and what he has done, I do not agree with the defunding of the police. I really think the wording sends the wrong message,” Atkinson said. He added: “We need our leaders to work together to solve this problem.”

Omar, seeking his third term in the House, had crushed a similar primary challenge two years ago from a well-funded but lesser-known opponent.

“She has already had a lot of adversity and rejection. I don’t think she finished her job,” said Kathy Ward, a 62-year-old property caretaker from a Minneapolis apartment building who voted for Omar. “We have to give it a chance.”

Two other members of the Squad, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, won their Democratic primaries last week.


Meanwhile, voters in southern Minnesota were deciding two races related to the same seat vacated by Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died earlier this year of cancer.

A special election for the remainder of Hagedorn’s term pitted Republican Brad Finstad, who served in the US Department of Agriculture during the Trump administration, against Democrat Jeff Ettinger, the former CEO of Hormel Foods. Both won the special primary election on May 24 to fill Hagedorn’s seat until January.

Finstad and Ettinger will also square off in November for a full term in the district, which includes Rochester and Mankato, after each secured their party’s nomination on Tuesday.

Finstad had no trouble dispatching state Rep. Jeremy Munson, who said he doesn’t think President Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate, despite federal and state election officials, the courts and Trump’s own attorney general saying they don’t. there was credible evidence that the 2020 presidential election was tainted. .


Republicans see an opportunity to retake Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, the seat to be vacated by Democratic incumbent Kind.

The district covers a swath of counties along Wisconsin’s western border with Minnesota and includes La Crosse and Eau Claire. Republican Derrick Van Orden was unopposed in his primary on Tuesday and has Trump’s backing.

Van Orden narrowly lost to Kind in the 2020 general election. He attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally near the White House but said he never set foot on Capitol grounds during the insurrection.

Four Democrats are vying to succeed Kind, including state Sen. Brad Pfaff, who previously clerked for the retiring lawmaker and briefly served as state agriculture secretary. Pfaff has Kind’s backing.

The others are small business owner Rebecca Cooke, retired CIA officer Deb McGrath and La Crosse City Council member Mark Neumann.


Vermont is the latest state in the country to add a woman to its congressional delegation. Balint, who immediately becomes the front-runner in the November general election, would also be the first openly gay member of Congress from Vermont.

He received endorsements from some of the nation’s top left-leaning leaders, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“Vermont has chosen a bold and progressive vision for the future and I will be proud to represent us in Congress,” Balint said in a statement.

Balint is vying for the state’s only House seat, which will be vacated by Rep. Peter Welch, who is running for the Senate and easily secured the Democratic nomination Tuesday. Welch is seeking to succeed Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Senate’s longest-serving member, who is retiring, creating the first open Vermont Senate seat since 2006, when Sanders succeeded Jim Jeffords.

Balint defeated Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, a former Welch staffer, and has been endorsed by Leahy and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. In November, she will face Liam Madden, a Marine Corps veteran from Bellows Falls who secured the Republican nomination.


Associated Press writers Doug Glass and Trisha Ahmed in Minneapolis, Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, and Wilson Ring in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.

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