U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar wins Democratic primary easily despite well-funded moderate challenger

Minnesota's Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar appeared at presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' rally at the University of Minnesota's Williams Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. Sarah Mearhoff / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL -- Minneapolis's U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar was declared victor of the Democratic Party's Congressional District 5 primary on Tuesday, Aug. 11, prevailing over a well-funded, moderate opponent who garnered national attention.

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State, as of 11 p.m. with all but three precincts reporting, Omar won 57.35% of Minneapolis Democrats' votes, over second-running opponent Antone Melton-Meaux with 39.29%. Within an hour and a half of polls closing, Melton-Meaux conceded.

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar

The race garnered national attention and rumors of a potential upset or close call. Omar is the first Somali-American member of Congress in U.S. history, and has earned national headlines in her first term for her progressive politics, some controversial votes, high-profile political alliances and public spars with President Donald Trump. Melton-Meaux presented himself as a moderate alternative to Omar, who he criticized as being too focused on headlines.


Melton-Meaux drew his own criticism for raising record-breaking contributions for a primary race: $3.2 million in campaign contributions just between April and June of this year — many times more than Omar's own $471,000 raised in the same duration. Omar has long been critical of the role of large campaign donations in American politics.

Antone Melton-Meaux

Just before 9:30 p.m., Omar tweeted of her victory, "In Minnesota, we know that organized people will always beat organized money."

"Tonight, our movement didn’t just win," she continued. "We earned a mandate for change. Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown."

Among several allies to tweet their congratulations to Omar on Tuesday night, fellow progressive U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt. was one, saying that Omar is "a leader of incredible courage."

"Americans want bold, progressive leaders like Ilhan in Congress, and together we will create a nation that works for all," he said.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison called Omar's win "great news" in a Tuesday night tweet , and said, "Now let us pull together and defeat the opponents of democracy, economic opportunity, and climate action."


Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin also offered congrats to Omar, who had earned the state party's primary endorsement. Martin said Tuesday night he is "thrilled she’ll be able to continue the important work of giving voice to those who traditionally have gone unheard in the halls of power during her second term."

There were three additional Democratic candidates competing for the District 5 Democratic nomination: Daniel Patrick McCarthy, Les Lester and John Mason, each of whom earned less than 2% of the vote.

Early results indicate that Omar will face off with Republican Lacy Johnson come November's general election. Johnson, out of three total Republican primary candidates, won 76.79% of the vote as of 11 p.m.

Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan on Tuesday night tweeted her congratulations to the GOP's endorsed candidate, saying, "Onward to Nov 3rd. Great work Lacy!"

Omar and Johnson will face Michael Moore of the Legal Marijuana Now Party in November's General Election.

Mearhoff is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. You can reach her at or 651-290-0707.
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