Marking her landslide victory, Congressmember Ilhan Omar tweeted Tuesday night: “In Minnesota, we know that organized people will always beat organized money.
“Tonight, our movement didn’t just win. 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.”
Omar’s victory over a well-funded primary opponent followed primary wins by two other members of “The Squad,” the four first-term progressive women of color who were targets of President Trump’s vitriol during the past two years.
Both Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan also won over primary challengers. Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley does not face a primary challenge.
In the Minnesota legislature, progressive challengers defeated incumbent DFL representatives in four primary contests, all in what are considered “safe” DFL districts.
South Minneapolis, District 62: 30-year-old Omaar Fateh, son of Somali immigrants, defeated State Senator Jeff Hayden, who has served in the legislature since 2008, first in the House and then in the Senate. More than half of the district residents are people of color and about one in four are immigrants. Fateh, who won the DFL endorsement, ran a campaign marked by strong grassroots organizing, and calls himself a Democratic Socialist activist.
In North Minneapolis District 59B, Esther Agbaje, who won the DFL endorsement, defeated four-term incumbent Rep. Ray Dehn. Agbaje’s campaign page says she works to “center the voices of low-income people and communities of color.”
In St. Paul, challenger Athena Hollins won over nine-term incumbent John Lesch in District 66B. A lawyer and community activist, Hollins’ campaign page states, “We deserve better than ‘good enough.’”
The fourth DFL primary upset came in State Senate District 7 in Duluth where progressive challenger Jen McEwen trounced two-term incumbent Erik Simonson, after a campaign focusing heavily on environmental issues.
On St. Paul’s East Side, John Thompson won the nomination in District 67A, where the incumbent is not running for re-election. Thompson was a close friend of Philando Castile, and traces his political activism to the time that Castile was killed, saying, “At that moment, I knew that I could no longer remain silent.”
The election of Hollins and Thompson in November would add two Black representatives to the current four-member Black delegation in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
In Minneapolis, the Sixth Ward City Council seat has been vacant since Abdi Warsame resigned in April to become the executive director of the Minneapolis Housing Authority.
Jamal Osman led the field of 11 candidates in first-choice votes, with 29%, followed by AJ Awed at 22%. Osman is a resident advocate for Commonbond Communities and Awed is a fellow with the American Arbitration Association. The third and fourth place finishers are Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner AK Hassan and Abdirizak Bihi. Because of ranked-choice voting and absentee ballot counting, the results will not be final until later in the week.
Mary Turck is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. She has published extensively as a journalist and has edited the Connection to the Americas and of the TC Daily Planet. Her website, maryturck.com, includes her literary and political blogs.