Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar is projected to skate to victory on Tuesday in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, easily deflecting a challenge from Republican Cicely Davis in a contest focused heavily on crime and law enforcement.
Omar has emerged as a leading figure in the liberal push to overhaul local police departments — including, in some cases, cutting their budgets — following the 2020 murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer in her district. And her support last year for a failed local ballot initiative to overhaul the city’s police department and shift the focus to public health programs became a flashpoint in this year’s contest.
Davis, a conservative activist who has worked to motivate Black Americans to leave the Democratic Party, sought to brand Omar as a “radical” liberal out of touch with the safety concerns of Minneapolis voters. In a cycle when voters are anxious about crime, that message has resonated in districts across the country.
It wasn’t enough, however, in Minnesota’s 5th, a heavily Democratic district centered in Minneapolis where Omar won by almost 40 points — and President Biden by 63 points — two years ago.
Omar’s tougher challenge this cycle came in the Democratic primary, where she faced off against Don Samuels, a Minneapolis city councilman who had also criticized Omar’s efforts to overhaul the city’s police department. In that contest, Omar squeaked out a victory by fewer than 3,000 votes, out of 114,000 cast.
Omar’s victory secures a third term for a lawmaker who made history in 2018, when she became one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress.
A Somali refugee, Omar is also one of six members of the liberal “squad” who have garnered national attention for defeating more moderate Democrats — including some powerful incumbents — in primary races and then fighting to pull the party to the left after arriving in Washington.
Omar’s high profile has been accompanied by controversy. Her criticisms of the Israeli government have, at times, sparked accusations of antisemitism. More frequently, her religion has made her the target of right-wing attacks, including death threats.