Omar cruises to victory in Democratic primary despite anti-Semitism

Omar, seeking her second term in November, easily defeated Antone Melton-Meaux, an attorney and mediator who raised millions in anti-Omar money.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

Anti-Semitism didn’t seem to dent Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s  electorability as she survived a stiff Democratic primary challenge Tuesday from a well-funded opponent who tried to make an issue of her national celebrity, the latest in a string of victories by a new generation of emboldened progressive lawmakers.

Omar, seeking her second term in November, easily defeated Antone Melton-Meaux, an attorney and mediator who raised millions in anti-Omar money.

Omar and her allies gained confidence in her reelection chances after primary victories last week by fellow “Squad” member Rashida Tlaib in Michigan, also known for anti-Semitic statements, and by Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist who ousted a longtime St. Louis-area congressman.

They also claimed momentum from the renewed focus on racial and economic justice after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

“Tonight, our movement didn’t just win,” Omar tweeted. “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.”

Melton-Meaux used the cash to paper the district and flood airwaves with his “Focused on the Fifth” message that portrayed Omar as out of touch with the heavily Democratic Minneapolis-area 5th District, which hasn’t elected a Republican to Congress since 1960.

He conceded defeat and acknowledged that his efforts weren’t enough, while declining to speculate on why.

“I’m also incredibly proud of the work that we did, that garnered at least over 60,000 votes from the district, from people who resonated with our message of effective leadership grounded in the district, and bringing people together to get things done,” Melton-Meaux told The Associated Press.

Omar in 2018 became one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, building on a national profile that started when the onetime refugee from Somalia was elected to the Minnesota Legislature just two years earlier. Her aggressive advocacy on liberal issues, and her eagerness to take on Donald Trump, made her even more prominent.

Omar rejected Melton-Meaux’s attacks, saying they were funded by interests who wanted to get her out of Congress because she’s effective.

She also downplayed Melton-Meaux’s prodigious fundraising before the vote, saying, “Organized people will always beat organized money.”

After entering Congress with fanfare, Omar hurt herself early with comments about Israel and money that even some fellow Democrats called anti-Semitic, and found herself apologizing. Those apologies rang hollow to most Jews as she made one anti-Semitic comment after another.

Even in the campaign, those anti-Semitic proclivities resurfaced when she sent out an election flyer in July accusing her opponent of being “in the pocket of Wall Street” and listing only Jewish donors to his campaign.

The American Jewish Congress slammed the flyer, saying Omar had “crossed the line.”

“My immediate thought when I saw the mailer was ‘Here we go again.’ This had both implicit and explicit anti-Semitic tropes,” Rabbi Avi Olitzky of the Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, the center of Greater Minneapolis’ Jewish community, told Vice.

That Omar thought the flyer would work may say something less-than-flattering about her constituency. Tuesday’s vote shows that her anti-Semitism hasn’t hurt her.

Omar won the 2019 ‘Anti-Semite of the Year’ award in a poll organized by StopAntisemitism.org.