Democrats quietly starting to unsheathe the long knives for Ilhan Omar
The whispers have already begun. Representative Ilhan Omar, with only two months in Congress, already is a problem for the Democrats, a potent symbol of a party unwilling to specifically rebuke the most prominent American Jew-hater since Father Coughlin, "the radio priest," reached tens of millions of Depression-era listeners with his anti-Semitic diatribes.
Already, a growing stream of articles is tantalizing the national Democrats with intimations that a primary challenge next year could knock her out of her seat. The first I have found comes from Eric Ostermeier:
To secure her seat last year, Omar outlasted five opponents in the August 2018 DFL primary with a plurality of the vote (48.2 percent), including former state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, state Senator Patricia Torres Ray, and state Senator Bobby Joe Champion (who suspended his campaign prior to the election).
With Democratic leadership largely standing by her side, it is unlikely the path to unseating Omar in a primary will be easy.
Without the Democratic leadership by her side, it would be much easier, by inference.
File photo: Ilhan Omar addresses a rally (photo credit: Fibonacci Blue).
A few days later, The Mankato Free Press raised the possibility of a primary challenge:
Rep. Ilhan Omar has been a member of Congress for less than three months, but she probably already has the highest national profile of Minnesota's delegation. This is not to her benefit, nor to the state's. ...
[The] more troubling part of her notoriety comes from how she criticizes the United States' support of Israel. She has repeatedly trotted out anti-Semitic tropes and questioned the loyalty of fellow legislators.
Just as it is repugnant to suggest Omar is connected to al-Qaida, it is repugnant for her to claim that those who disagree with her on Israel are doing so for money or out of allegiance to a foreign government. ...
[T]his kind of self-inflicted controversy makes it more likely that she will face a primary opponent. She would do well to focus her criticism on policies rather than personalities.
This newspaper is not in Omar's Minneapolis district, but it comes from the home town of Glen Taylor, the billionaire owner of the state's biggest newspaper, the Star-Tribune, which is published out of Minneapolis. Taylor's fortune is anchored in Mankato, where the company he founded still operates, and he represented Mankato in the state Senate for many years. He also owns the Minnesota Timberwolves and, I suspect, is very proud of his (and my) home state. While I haven't lived in Minnesota for about half a century, I have kept in touch (I used to visit Mankato many times a year for board meetings of a company located there), and I understand that Minnesotans' pride in their state can be injured by scorn coming from national elites.
If and when Glen and others in the Minnesota establishment start to conclude that Omar is shaming the state in the national public's view, the Strib's refusal to highlight the many problematic aspects of her career (including her apparent immigration fraud with a phony marriage to her brother) might change.
A day after this editorial appeared, The Hill reported:
Some Minnesota Democrats, aghast at controversial comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D), are taking initial steps to recruit a candidate to run against her in next year's primary election, seeking to buck history in one of the nation's most progressive legislative districts.
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.
Of course, Omar would have solid support from Somali voters, but they are far from a majority, though a bloc big enough to win a low-turnout primary. A lot will depend on how she behaves from now on, and how badly state and national Democrats want to be rid of her. If and when an attractive Democrat challenges her and the Minnesota media turn on her and start asking, "Will no one rid us of the troublesome Jew-hater?," she may have a real fight for political survival on her hands.