Some Democrats Searching for Primary Challenger to Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar AP
Associated Press

Some Democrats have had enough of the repeated antisemitism coming from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and intend to primary her out of office, several sources familiar with an effort to recruit a candidate to run against her tell Breitbart News.

Several Democrats, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Omar’s repeated antisemitic episodes as “the elephant in the room” distracting from what Democrats are trying to do in their first few months of a new House majority heading into the all-important 2020 presidential election. As such, these Democrats say, they are seeking out a primary challenger in Minnesota’s fifth congressional district to remove her from office in the 2020 congressional elections.

While, as Breitbart News is revealing here, there is an ongoing effort to seek out a primary challenger to Omar, it remains to be seen if the effort will be successful. Those involved in doing the searching for a candidate–top Democrats with national profiles and connections to senior leaders throughout the party–would only speak on condition of anonymity for this piece, and expressed their ongoing agony as this week in particular has dragged out to the point where Democrats finally passed a resolution out of the House late Thursday condemning hatred and bigotry.

But they have been criticized by many Republicans, and even some Democrat members of Congress, for not going far enough and being too appeasing to this rising antisemitic sentiment inside the fringes of the Democrat Party as represented by Omar’s views.

“Republicans will never win this district,” one Democrat source familiar with the effort said, pointing to the fact that the district Omar represents is rated by the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index as a D+26 district–meaning it is heavily gerrymandered to favor Democrats by 26 percent over Republicans.

“Many Democrats simply are simply too afraid to say anything because Islamophobia has become the knee jerk reaction to anyone who dares criticize her,” a second Democrat told Breitbart News. “To be labeled a racist or Islamophobe for simply calling out what we all know to be abhorrent, is not just a slippery slope, it’s deeply troubling. And it’s forcing allies out of the party. To say that Democratic leadership doesn’t know what to do would be an understatement. They are in a state of total paralysis. Ilhan rode into Congress with Ocasio-Cortez, and is, unfortunately, becoming more and more popular along with her. Omar represents a faction of the party that is, frankly, anti-intellectual. Their flirtation with religious extremism exemplifies that. A primary challenge wouldn’t just be healthy, it’s absolutely necessary. The longer Ilhan Omar remains in office, the longer we lose credibility in calling out extremism in all forms. It is a total quagmire.”

Others have raised the specter of a primary challenge publicly:

Because of her district’s hard left political makeup, Democrats’ only hope of removing her from office is to run someone against her in the primary and beat her there. Republicans would stand next to zero chance of winning this seat because of the demographic makeup of the district.

Minnesota’s new attorney general, Keith Ellison, used to represent the district. Given that he is the former vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), there are deep national Democrat ties into the urban Minneapolis district. Omar is the first Somali-American to ever serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is the first woman of color to represent any Minnesota district in Congress. Ellison, first elected in 2006, represented the district through 2018–when he stepped aside to run for the attorney general post in Minnesota, clearing the way for Omar’s rise.

Ellison, who like Omar is a Muslim, had his own problems with connections to extremism, having written under a pseudonym in law school in a student newspaper defending Louis Farrakhan and supporting the anti-Israel Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement. Ellison later denounced Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and attempted to distance himself from the antisemitic leader of the Nation of Islam. And while Ellison challenged the Democratic Party’s establishment, dragging the party further left on many issues and pushing the DNC his way with a bitter race against current chair, which landed Ellison in the vice chairman slot for a time, he still got along well with many national Democrats. Ellison also avoided the matter becoming a major national scandal as has played out for Democrats over the past week plus.

But Omar has not handled these matters like Ellison. She has been abrasive with more senior members of the Democrat conference, including leadership officials and chairmen and chairwomen who have called her out over antisemitism, and she has been more direct in her antisemitic comments than Ellison ever was. She has also rubbed leadership the wrong way, putting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a tough position, where she has had to spend days responding to Omar’s latest problems rather than pushing forward her own agenda.

Pelosi’s latest response wrapped her up in Omar’s mess, because she refused to call on Omar to apologize for her antisemitic remarks, instead just pushing through a resolution that not only condemns antisemitism without naming Omar but also–at the request of Omar and her allies–includes language denouncing other forms of hate including against Muslims.

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