Two years ago, Minnesota representative Ilkhan Omar easily survived the Democratic primary, defeating a fellow progressive. Despite becoming a national lightning rod for attacks from the right and facing stiff opposition from pro-Israel groups who spent millions of dollars hoping to defeat her, she won her 2020 race by more than 35,000 votes.
But Omar won only a narrow primary against a centrist Democrat on Tuesday, losing the seat by 2,500 votes. “Today’s win is a testament to how much our county believes in the collective values we fight for and how much they are willing to do to help us overcome this loss,” Omar wrote on Twitter.
To her supporters and critics, the tight race was a sign that her staunch support of a progressive push to overhaul the Minneapolis Police Department cost her votes. The push, which took the form of a vote last year, follows the 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked protests and nationwide calls for racial justice and police reform. More than two years later, the issue of policing and accountability continues to deeply divide Democrats.
“Most voters, when they call 911, want the police to come right away,” said Michael Meehan, a Democratic strategist, adding that Omar’s narrow victory showed the “punishing force” of the backlash against calls to “get rid of the police” in to the whole world. Country.
For many in Minneapolis, the clash over police between Omar and her main Democratic primary rival, Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member and school board member, was a continuation of last year’s election battle that replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety. .
Omar supported the measure, which grew out of outrage over Floyd’s killing as Minneapolis became the focus of a push to defund or eliminate the police. But moderate Democrats, including Mayor Jacob Frey, have called for improvements to the current department as the increase in homicides has raised concerns.
In the end, Minneapolis voters rejected the amendment.
Samuels, who campaigned for the no vote and who supported Frey in the primary, criticized Omar for her support of the “defund the police” movement. After he conceded his race, Samuels said his opponent was beatable. “If it had been a general election, there’s no doubt we would have won this race,” he said.
This time, pro-Israeli groups refused to intervene.
A political action committee affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee did not respond to requests for comment. They and other groups have opposed Omar in the past after she made comments about the influence of pro-Israel donors on lawmakers. Her harsh and persistent criticism of Israel revealed a broader tension between younger Democrats who accuse the Jewish state of human rights abuses and older Democrats who stand behind it.
On Wednesday, Omar’s progressive supporters were relieved but also depressed.
“I feel like it shouldn’t have been this close,” said DA Bullock, a Minneapolis filmmaker and activist who has endorsed her campaign. “It was almost like trying to push her instead of pushing for better policy.”
Sabrina Mauritz, field director for TakeAction Minnesota, said Omar won despite the broader backlash because she was an effective local leader. “Continuous fear-mongering is what’s supposed to scare people,” Mauritz said, referring to the Omar attacks and police reform efforts.