Rep. Ilhan Omar and righteous colleagues (
by Dan Burns
May 12, 2024, 9:00 AM

MN-05: Looking at Rep. Omar’s primary

Yesterday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) pretty handily defeated Don Samuels for DFL caucus endorsement. If you’re reading this website you probably know that while in previous cycles Rep. Omar easily won her primary elections, in 2022 it was way too tight, (also vs. Samuels), and there’s obviously concern for this time around.

As a white male replete with unearned privilege I couldn’t consider using terms like “oreo” and “blackface” to publicly refer to Don Samuels. But plenty of the metro-based POC activists whose work I follow don’t hesitate to do so. He is a stooge, but from what I’ve seen an entirely knowing and willing one.

There have been reports of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which works on behalf of the current Israel right-wing government’s inhuman slaughter and maiming of Palestinian children among plenty of other almost incomprehensible things, “pouring millions” into the primary on Samuels’s behalf. I was unable to find any confirmation of that kind of number in a search this morning, but I’m sure MN-05 residents will be subjected to a blitz of at times pretty repulsive advertising. I think Rep. Omar and her supporters are ready to deal with that, though.

(Update: In a comment to this story that I’ve added at the bottom I’ve learned that AIPAC will indeed be throwing a lot of money at this.)

And there was a recent very encouraging result. From April 23:

Progressive Rep. Summer Lee fended off a primary challenge from Edgewood Borough Council member Bhavini Patel, NBC News projects, in a race that served as an early test of how Democratic voters feel about the Israel-Hamas war and concerns over rising antisemitism at home.

With 99% of the expected vote counted, Lee held a 21-point edge over Patel.

In a victory speech in Pittsburgh, Lee said, “This movement is stronger than whatever they want to throw at us” and is “stronger than every GOP billionaire.” She called for peace “from Pittsburgh to Palestine.”
(NBC News)

(Yeah, “fended off” in a 21-point blowout. And of course the conflation of being strongly against what “Bibi” and his likes are doing with “antisemitism.” But I do get that corporate media is about telling its base audience what it wants to see and hear, rather than about trying to tell it anything like it is.)

So at this point I’m not concerned about Rep. Omar’s primary. I go by actual results rather than flagrantly cooked corporate media “polling.”

Comment from Joe Musich: I am pleased Congressperson Omar was endorsed. I have seen a couple of signs where I did not expect to see them for Shamules. Guy is a tragedy.

Addendum: The great Developers Are Crabgrass blog has a far more complex and nuanced view of this race than what I gave. The entire thing should be read. I’m just quoting a few pieces.

Omar has steered cash back to the district while not coddling folks there, and she’s been a very fresh voice in the DC deep-stated Gestalt; where Samuels might well fit in as a Blue Dog / New Dem sort; Clinton-comfortable judging by the political company he keeps. Not bad folks. But very ordinary Dems and not innovative.

As noted earlier, Samuels seems more comfortable with the party’s status quo than Omar is. I would say Samuels is not a Hakeem Jeffries nor a Pelosi, but he’s no Jamal Bowman either.

Bowman and Omar seem more kindred in spirit than Samuels and Bowman, as best as Crabgrass sees things. And change if it ever comes will need the Omar and Bowman contingent more than those walking the familiar more traveled path…

It’s in part that Omar is a national treasure, of a kind we need if not to sink into the mud of a slowly strangling status quo…

Again, voters in CD5 will decide. Both of the DFL primary front runners (there are two stragglers too) seem credible, each appealing to a different part of the party – Omar with the young and innovaters, Samuels perhaps too patient with the establishment.

Or that’s the impression Crabgrass has. Samuels would be okay. But not a Wellstone. Not a Vento. Not a magnet to inspire party growth.

Comment from Mac Hall: United Democracy Project is the likely spender of AIPAC money. They spent big in the Illinois primary opposing Kina Collins in her race to unseat Danny Davis.

Most recently they spent over $4.2 million to help Sarah Kelly Elfreth to victory in Maryland’s Third Congressional District, a safe blue district vacated by retiring Congressman John Sarbanes. She won with with 35% of the vote in a crowded field of 20 candidates including former Capital Policeman Harry Dunn who came in second with 25%. The Huffington Post reported that suggested the pro-Elfreth ads may be part of a campaign by AIPAC to defeat John Morse, a labor lawyer who was recently endorsed by Bernie Sanders and has been highly critical of the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Before that they spent an estimated $4.5 million opposing Dave Min who will compete in November for Katie Porter’s old seat.

And it isn’t only Democrats that they are running ads in what should be “safe” districts …. their current target appears to be Thomas Massie.

As of the March 31 FEC filing, they had $33,338,361.14 cash on hand … so you can expect them to invest heavily in another attempt to defeat Omar.

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