Leaders not happy with Omar’s anti-Semitism.
A few Democrat freshman representatives have caused problems for the party, which has led to whispers among Democrat leaders within those respective states to find primary challengers.
Several party leaders said they have had discussions about finding a candidate to take on Omar, just two months into her first term in Congress.
But even those who were deeply offended by Omar’s comments about Israel concede they have not yet found anyone to challenge her.
“There’s definitely some buzz going around about it, but it’s more a buzz of is anyone talking about finding someone to run against her than it is anyone saying they’re going to run against her or contemplate it. There’s definitely talk about people wanting someone to run against her,” said state Sen. Ron Latz (D), who represents a portion of Omar’s district.
The Jewish community within her district has tried to educate Omar on anti-Semitism and tropes since she served in the state legislation. She never seems to learn, causing frustration among Jewish leaders:
“Our community is exasperated by Rep. Omar’s unfulfilled promises to listen and learn from Jewish constituents while seemingly simultaneously finding another opportunity to make an anti-Semitic remark and insult our community,” Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said in a statement.
Omar met with Hunegs last month, after her initial remarks received widespread condemnation. She has continued to meet with Jewish leaders both in Minneapolis and Washington, a spokesman said.
“Unfortunately, having the opportunity to speak with her about that point didn’t dissuade her making that statement,” Hunegs told The Hill in an interview Wednesday. “We were appalled.”
The editorial board at the Mankato Free Press, in Mankato, MN, lashed out at Omar’s behavior. Mankato is not located in Omar’s district, but the city deserves to voice an opinion since the board points out that her behavior reflects badly on the state as much as it does on her.
The editorial board agreed that her “self-inflicted controversy makes it more likely that she will face a primary opponent.” They urged her “to focus her criticism on policies rather than personalities.”
Is It Possible?
Can a primary challenger win? Omar replaced Keith Ellison, who has a history with anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan and anti-Israel activists. Despite these ties, Ellison remained popular and Minnesota citizens even voted him for attorney general of the state in November.
Dr. Eric Ostermeier explored the possibility at Smart Politics. If a primary challenger defeats Omar, that person will make history in Minnesota:
With Democratic leadership largely standing by her side, it is unlikely the path to unseating Omar in a primary will be easy.
Should such an attempt be made and were it successful, it would be a first in the annals of Minnesota Democratic politics.
Of the 128 true freshmen Minnesota U.S. Representatives to seek a second term since statehood, only four have failed to win their party’s nomination – and just two during the last century. All were Republicans.
Some in Minnesota agree with Ostermeier’s assessment. From The Hill:
“While she has created a significant amount of controversy for herself and said things that have offended many Americans, I’m not sure that one could make the case that she is in trouble yet,” said Mike Erlandson, a former Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) chairman and chief of staff to ex-Rep. Martin Sabo (D) who ran for the seat against Omar’s predecessor, Keith Ellison (D), in 2006.
I doubt a primary challenger would beat Omar or even Ocasio-Cortez, but the fact is the Democrat Party has a rebellion in itself at the worst possible time. They want to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020, but it’s not an easy thing to do when the foundation has cracks.
Can Omar Change?
I also don’t expect Omar and the others to change their behavior. Omar said as much in a Politico interview last week:
“I don’t believe that tiptoeing is the way to win the hearts and the minds of the people,” she says. “I get saddened by some of my freshman colleagues who can’t understand that within their districts the idea of Medicare for All is extremely popular. The Green New Deal is a very popular idea in their districts. Making sure that we have a final fix to our broken immigration system is very popular in their districts. What they pay attention to is the rhetoric that says, ‘This is a red-to-blue district, you have to be careful, you can’t talk about these policies.’ Well, in reality, these people are like everyone else: They struggle with the cost of health care, they struggle with our broken infrastructure, they struggle with having an economy that brings them into the 21st century. And we have to be willing to have those conversations.”
“As much as other people are uncomfortable, I’m excited about the change in tone that has taken place that is extremely positive. The insightful conversations that we’re having about money and its influence in Washington. And my ability, I think, to agitate our foreign policy discussions in a way that many of my colleagues who have been anti-intervention, anti-war have been unable to do in the past,” she says. “So, I’m OK with taking the blows if it means it will ignite conversations that no one was willing to have before.”
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