Democratic freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, a member of the progressive Democratic “Squad,” prevailed in her fight to keep her seat in a Minnesota primary election on Tuesday, a victory for progressives as they seek to expand their power and influence on Capitol Hill.
In Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a GOP candidate with ties to the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory and a track record of incendiary rhetoric, won a primary runoff. That outcome leaves Greene well positioned to win a congressional seat in the fall. Greene’s primary win marks another QAnon victory and puts national Republicans in the difficult position of how to respond and whether and to what extent they will support a conspiracy theory-touting nominee who’s also made comments using Islamophobic and anti-Semitic tropes.
Republican voters also selected a candidate in a campaign for a Minnesota congressional seat in a district that went for President Donald Trump in 2016 by a wide margin and is currently represented by endangered Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson.
Those were a few of the most high-profile results from a series of contests Tuesday in Georgia, Connecticut, Vermont, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
‘Squad’ member Ilhan Omar defeats well-funded primary challenger
Omar defeated a well-funded Democratic challenger in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District on Tuesday.
The congresswoman had faced attacks from challenger Antone Melton-Meaux that she is divisive and overly focused on building a national profile, but she ultimately prevailed in the race.
Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, also members of the “Squad,” had faced similar attacks in primary races of their own but succeeded in fending off those challenges earlier this year.
The victory for Omar means that the freshmen group will now be able to dig a deeper foothold in the caucus. And, with victories by insurgent candidates Jamaal Bowman in New York, Cori Bush in Missouri and Marie Newman in Illinois, all of whom unseated incumbents this year, it will also be poised to exert greater power next year.
Melton-Meaux, an attorney who runs a mediation practice and a first-time candidate for elected office, did not have as much of a national profile as the challengers who ran against Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib, but he still raised a substantial amount of money. He had raised more than $4.1 million as of July 22, according to Federal Election Commission data, while Omar had raised around $4.3 million by the same date.
Omar’s outspoken support of progressive priorities has given her a devoted following on the political left. At the same time, her rhetoric related to Israel has made her a target of criticism from Republicans as well as some members of her own party. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and other members of House Democratic leadership once went so far as to publicly call on Omar to apologize for comments they said included “anti-Semitic tropes.”
Omar apologized after her rebuke from House Democratic leaders and has sought to limit the damage and win over skeptics.
As she fought to keep her seat, Omar had the support of Pelosi, who endorsed her bid for reelection. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, along with other progressive leaders and organizations, led by Justice Democrats, also rallied for Omar ahead of the primary.
GOP candidate who embraced QAnon conspiracy theory wins Georgia runoff
A Republican primary runoff for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, which is situated in the northwest corner of the state, drew national attention as a result of Greene’s promotion of the wild and unsubstantiated conspiracy theory known as QAnon.
Greene has repeated and promoted QAnon theories and phrases, praising the mythical Q as a “patriot” in a video from 2017 and describing the conspiracy theory as “something worth listening to and paying attention to.”
Although the theory is nebulous enough to invite all kinds of interpretations from its adherents, at its core QAnon claims that Trump has been secretly fighting to bring down a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles that has infiltrated all levels of the US government and other elite institutions.
Greene and a few other QAnon supporters have won primaries throughout the country this year and it is highly likely that the next Congress sworn in to office in January 2021 will include someone who is sympathetic to the conspiracy theory.
Greene has also faced a backlash over the revelation of past Islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments, including saying that there is “an Islamic invasion into our government offices” and calling the progressive billionaire activist George Soros, who is Jewish, a “Nazi.” House GOP leaders responded with condemnation following a report in Politico surfacing racist remarks and other incendiary comments in June.
Despite that, Greene prevailed on Tuesday in a primary runoff against GOP opponent John Cowan, raising the question of what national Republicans will do in response.
The seat for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District is currently held by Republican Rep. Tom Graves, who has served in the House since 2010 and announced last year that he would not seek reelection.
Republicans pick a nominee for the Trumpiest district represented by a Democrat
In Minnesota, Republican voters picked their candidate in a campaign to flip a House seat, with CNN projecting that Michelle Fischbach will win Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District GOP primary.
The district is currently represented by House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson, a Democrat. Peterson’s district voted for Trump by a bigger margin than any other represented by a Democrat, making him among the most vulnerable Democrats in 2020.
The Republican primary on Tuesday was a five-way race, with former Minnesota Lt. Gov. Fischbach and retired Air Force Maj. Dave Hughes among the most high-profile candidates.
Fischbach won the GOP endorsement for the district in May during a virtual party convention, while Hughes ran against Peterson in 2016 and in 2018 when he won nearly 48% of the vote to Peterson’s 52%.