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Minneapolis City Council Member to Challenge Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

'I believe there’s an exhausted majority of my neighbors looking for leaders who seek to strengthen our civic foundations,' said Don Samuels

Don Samuels wants a rematch against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

The former member of the Minneapolis City Council announced his new congressional campaign on Nov. 12. Samuels narrowly lost to Omar by about 2% during the primary in 2022.

In a statement, Samuels said Minnesotans in the Fifth Congressional District deserve a representative who will work “with the Biden administration and other democratic colleagues to strengthen democracy” and who will “promote peace around the globe, and create a future of opportunity in America.”

“At a time where democratic institutions are under attack both at home and abroad, I believe there’s an exhausted majority of my neighbors looking for leaders who seek to strengthen our civic foundations using government to make a difference, not to just cynically make a point,” he said, per KSTP-TV.

Samuels called Omar a “strident supporter of the defund the police movement” and noted she rebuked “President Barack Obama when he referred to it as a ‘snappy slogan’ that would make reform more difficult.”

“Nationally, she also voted against President Biden’s signature infrastructure legislation,” he continued. “Internationally, she voted against aid for Ukraine. She voted against sanctions on Russia and previously Turkey, saying that she opposes all sanctions against any nation ‘friend or foe.’ Yet, she supports them against Israel.”

Samuels told AP News that he believes the Israel-Hamas conflict will be a key issue on the minds of voters as they head to the polls next year. He noted that Omar boycotted Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s speech to Congress in July.

“She has frightened the Jewish community,” he told the outlet. He added that the community “understands that there is a latent and lurking antisemitic sentiment that always needs discouragement, and always in times of national crisis raises its ugly head.”

Samuels was born in Jamaica and previously served as a member of the Minneapolis School Board. In 2021, he aided local efforts to reject a proposal that would have replaced law enforcement with public safety officials. He said during an interview with WCCO that Omar’s support for defunding the police ultimately proved to be a losing issue and emboldened criminals in his neighborhood. 

“In our country, we have a version of the world. We can demonstrate how conflicts can be resolved in the way we work together,” said Samuels in his 2024 launch video. “We have to have a Congress that works so that we can become a beacon of opportunity, justice, and inclusion for all people.”

At least two other Democrats have already announced campaigns challenging Omar. 

Air Force veteran Tim Peterson “sold his Deep Sea fishing business and home in Florida and immediately started Volunteering at East Phillips Park teaching the kids kickboxing” after “George Floyd was murdered on the street [Peterson] rode his bike as a kid,” according to his campaign’s website. He has promised to create a “national school to small business pipeline” and a “national school to Police pipeline” if elected.

Defense attorney Sarah Gad announced her campaign in July and has presented herself as a pragmatist who will make policy decisions based on evidence.  She has also been open about her Muslim faith and her previous struggles with opioid addiction. 

Gad indicated she’d draw some contrast with Omar’s outspoken criticism of the Israeli government” but that she “wasn’t going to try to seek the endorsement of or funding from AIPAC or other pro-Israel groups that have vowed to mount challenges to Omar and other progressives,” reports Politico.

In a statement responding to his announcement, the congresswoman accused Samuels of receiving contributions from wealthy Republican donors and stressed her accomplishments on the House Budget Committee and as a member of the Progressive Caucus

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