After AOC and Tlaib, Minnesota’s Omar next ‘squad’ member facing primary

Thursday August 6, 2020
By John Gizzi

From left, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ayanna Pressley respond to remarks by President Donald Trump after his call for the four Democratic congresswomen to go back to their “broken” countries, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 15, 2019. All are American citizens and three of the four were born in the U.S. PHOTO/ J. Scott Applewhite, AP

The only thing surprising about Michigan Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s renomination Tuesday night was the size of her victory.

Two years after Tlaib edged out Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones by less than 800 votes, the Muslim lawmaker and member of the socialist “Squad” in the House won the rematch with Jones by 2-to-1.

Tlaib’s win comes less than two months after an equally big victory for fellow “Squad” member New York Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. Facing a well-heeled primary challenger backed by Wall Street, the freshman congresswoman known as AOC racked up nearly 70% of the vote.

Now, national eyes are on a third “Squad” member. One week before the Minnesota primary, Rep. Ilhan Omar — a Muslim and vigorous supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy — is in a pitched primary battle with Minneapolis attorney Antone Melton-Meaux.
As were the challenges to Tlaib and AOC, Melton-Meaux, who is Black, is well-funded.  In fact, he has raised more than $2 million to Omar’s $1 million.
Somali-born Omar is a House co-sponsor of Sanders’ bill to eliminate all student debt, backs the Medicare for All plan, and was highly critical of what she called the Obama administration’s “droning of countries around the world.”

The Minnesotan is perhaps best known for her long-standing criticism of Israel. She has condemned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex the Jordan Valley — the eastern portion of the West Bank — and urged Israeli voters to vote against Netanyahu.

Asked in February 2019 about the strong support of Israel among U.S. politicians, Omar tweeted: “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby” — a not-so-subtle suggestion that Jewish money drives American political support of Israel. She later apologized for the tweet.

Melton-Meaux, who styles himself a “progressive,” focuses his fire on what he considers Omar’s lack of effectiveness rather than her voting record.  Promising to “focus on the 5th [District],” the challenger charges that Omar has missed 40 votes since taking office in 2019. Among those was the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was backed by the rest of the congressional delegation.

In defending her fellow “Squad” member from attack, AOC summed up the case for the growing ranks of admitted socialists or socialist admirers in Congress. Speaking of the big-moneyed challenge to Omar, the New Yorker declared: “That tells you how damn effective she is against big real estate, against our military-industrial complex, against our Wall Street complex, against basically every corrupt institution that we have right now in this country.”

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