Antone Melton-Meaux, Ilhan Omar’s Fifth District primary challenger, raised nearly seven times what the incumbent did in the second quarter of 2020. Melton-Meaux brought in $3.2 million, compared to the $471,000 Omar raised in the same time period.
This time last year, few had heard of Melton-Meaux, a lawyer with a background in employment practice and mediation. Now, his flyers are all over CD5 doorsteps and his ads are all over TV.
Ilhan Omar vastly outraised by primary rival ahead of August election
Omar still touts endorsements from Sanders and PelosiBy Paul Steinhauser | Fox News July 18, 2020:
Ilhan Omar paid $878G to new husband’s consulting firm
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 15, 2020
Omar also enjoys the support of leading Minnesota Democrats, such as state House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Attorney General Keith Ellison. And she has the backing of local unions and the state party as she runs for a second two-year term representing Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District – which covers much of the city of Minneapolis and was ground zero for the nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
But in the crucial battle for campaign cash, she’s been walloped by her main primary challenger, Antone Melton-Meaux.
The lawyer and mediator hauled in an eye-popping $3.2 million in the April-June quarter of fundraising, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. That far surpassed Omar, who raised nearly half-a-million dollars during the same period of time. Melton-Meaux reported having $2 million in his campaign coffers as of the end of June, nearly double of Omar’s $1.1 million cash on hand.
— Antone Melton-Meaux (@Antone_MN) July 11, 2020
The fundraising advantage for a newcomer challenging an incumbent is striking. But it’s even more newsworthy because Omar quickly became a nationally known politician as one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and for her outspoken criticism of President Trump.
But the attention surrounding the progressive lawmaker – and her Twitter feed – have made her a target of Republicans and even some fellow Democrats. And Omar made national headlines early last year, apologizing for making comments viewed as anti-Semitic.
Former Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor (DFL) Party Chairman Mike Erlandson told Fox News that “there’s no question that the elevation of the race in the 5th Congressional District to a national race has clearly helped Omar, and Ellison before her, with the national fundraising base. But now we are seeing that it is also having an impact on a challenger.”
“He’s a very strong candidate. He has a very compelling story, just as congresswoman has a very compelling story. I think that has brought people into his camp, in addition to a number of people not being too excited about their current congresswoman,” Erlandson said.
Melton-Meaux’s haul is a dramatic surge from the first quarter of the year, when he raised roughly $210,000. Much of the money came from outside of the District — and some of it came from conservative donors and pro-Israel groups.
The candidate – who says he supported Omar’s 2018 campaign – pointed to the controversies surrounding the congresswoman as the reason why he decided to run for office.
Meltons-Meaux argued in an interview with The Hill that Omar had “lost the trust of the Jewish community by her insensitive and harmful tropes.”
Taking aim at her challenger’s fundraising, Omar political aides said in a statement that “our campaign is about organizing people. That’s what progressives do. And organized people will always beat organized money.”
And the statement to the Minneapolis Star Tribune touted that an “overwhelming majority” of her constituents approve of Omar’s job performance. They also touted her grassroots fundraising, pointing out that the average donation was just $18.
Neil Sroka – a Democratic strategist and communications director for the progressive group Democracy for America, which is backing Omar – told Fox News that “while right-wing interests funneling millions into her opponent’s campaign are willing to do anything and say anything to stop her, we’re confident that voters in Minnesota’s 5th District will stand with Rep. Ilhan Omar in this primary just as she’s always stood with them.”
Omar’s campaign recently put out an internal poll showing her with a large double-digit lead. But Erlandson, the former state party chair, said he thinks “the race is much closer than that. The numbers that have been shared with me from some other private polls show the race within striking distance for Antone. He’s run a strong campaign.”
The District – which used to be represented by Ellison – is one of the safest blue districts in the country, which means the winner of the Democratic primary will be the overwhelming favorite in November’s general election.
Fellow “Squad” member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also faced a well-financed Democratic primary challenger last month in the New York primary. Former CNBC correspondent and anchor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera hauled in roughly $2 million ahead of the contest. But Ocasio-Cortez dramatically outraised her rival and crushed Caruso-Cabrera and other challengers in the contest.
Another member of “The Squad,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, appears to be facing a formidable primary challenge from former Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in the Aug. 4 contest.