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Don Samuels runs against Ilhan Omar

Don Samuels: a irresponsible candidate
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As the election season comes in full swing around the country for representatives, there is no exception for Minnesota. Progressive candidate Ilhan Omar, who has been Minnesota’s congressman since 2019, is gearing up for an intense reelection campaign against Don Samuels, her formal opponent from the 2019 election, a man who has so far irresponsibly handled his public image. Don Samuels, who was previously a part of the Minneapolis City Council, has challenged Ilhan Omar for her seat after previously coming close in the last election at a loss of only 2,500 votes. Don Samuels announced his campaign on Nov. 12, stating that Ilhan Omar is too divisive and not accessible to the public. 

Samuels stated that he would be running on a “public safety platform”, (which in retrospect just means more police) similar to 2019. But he also discussed a “crisis in leadership,” supposedly brought on by the likes of people on the far left such as Ilhan and far right such as Donald Trump. A comparison that unrealistically compares the far right former president who tried to cling to an election that he lost. To a progressive congresswoman who has fought for progressive values since her election. Samuels continued stating that a majority of voters are exhausted of both. Omar responded to the comments by saying, “I’m incredibly proud of the model of co-governance we’ve built in the 5th District, which has included monthly town halls, routine constituent service resource fairs and a brand new district office.” 

It also seems that it’s no coincidence that he announced his campaign in the midst of the Israeli and Palestine Conflict. Samuels seems to be trying to pin Omar on her takes on the conflict. In a discussion with Newsnation, Samuels stated that her most recent comments about the conflict are “the last straw in a long series of insensitive statements.” He also told the StarTribune that “Ilhan has not helped herself. She’s dug a deeper hole, especially in this most recent crisis, and continues to demonstrate that there’s an urgent need for new leadership,”. What Samuels seems to be missing is that the outrage that he has seen is not entirely consistent with residents of District 5. Residents are Incredibly divided among the conflict, multiple protests have occurred calling for a cease fire, and even calls for state investments to be diverted from Israel. In Minnesota’s capital during a State Bored meeting pro-Palestinian groups, clashed over the state’s investments in Israel. “The State Board of Investment manages nearly $130 billion in assets, including retirement investments for public employees. A spokesperson for the board in an email said the scope of investments linked to Israel is $116 million, including government bonds and stocks in publicly traded companies.” According to CBS News. Showing that Samules leaning on the conflict to get an edge on Ilhan might not be as effective as he might think, and might instead backfire and aggravate voters to come out to vote in the name of the cause. Young voters specifically are more progressive all around, and that doesn’t change when it comes to the conflict, young voters are extremely pro-Palestine

Omar did respond to his attacks, stating, “I’ve continued to fight for the progressive values Minnesotans sent me to advocate for.” Ilhan continued by speaking of the progressive values that she has fought for over the course of her leadership, “fighting to codify Roe v. Wade into law, pushing for historic climate legislation, addressing the opioid crisis or fighting for an assault weapons ban”. She also discussed achievements she has made, Together we’ve been able to achieve a lot, including a landmark public safety bill I negotiated to secure major investments in local departments and real accountability, the biggest effort to fight climate change in the history of the country and historic funding to feed over 30 million kids during the pandemic.” 

Omar also seems to be able to tackle Samuels on another front, gender. In a recent podcast on Nov. 21, Samuels went on “The Break Down with Brodkorb and Becky” to discuss the campaign. During the conversation, Samuels made misogynistic and sexist comments in regards to representative Omar, he started off the quote by speaking about Omar’s interaction with the constituency. “And so to see government not be responsive like that to the people who pay them, it is offensive to me, and to not be responsive and available to those people? To meet with them and find out what their concerns are and to answer their tough questions? To not get back to people on the phone? Who do you think you are? And who do you think you’re working for?” All of this is reminiscent of Samuels intention to pin Omar on her unavailability. In the part that has caught the attention of the public, he stated “You’re not cute enough, you don’t dress well enough, nothing about you is attractive enough to overcome that deficit.” This prompted Omar to come out with a statement stating “This is beneath the dignity of any adult, let alone someone seeking public office,” Omar continued saying “It is reminiscent of the worst kinds of lies and misogyny that we are hearing from people like Donald Trump, who think they can say anything about women and get away with it. Like Trump, instead of engaging in an adult debate, Don relies on lies and sexism. We need civility now more than ever and Don’s behavior should be alarming to anyone who agrees.” Ilhan brings up a point of it being reminiscent of the likes of Donald Trump and other far right candidates, whether that comes to the Palestine conflict, crime, or gender. As Samules states that “voters are tired” of the extremes of both sides, so far he seems to particularly be leaning into the right-wing camp. 

As both sides go into full gear for one of the most intense elections around the country, youth are stepping up to the ballot box. Minnesota had the third largest youth voter turnout in the country in the 2022 midterms. And that number is not expected to shy away when it comes to the congressional seat. Samuels strategy of leaning onto the right to close the gap that cost him the last election could backfire, especially with young voters, and as students across the state are getting ready to vote. Most seniors in high schools such as Park will be able to vote for congressional seats and candidates in the presidential election.

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About the Contributor
Jaiden Leary, Echo Staffer
Hi my name's Jaiden Leary, I'm a junior and I like writing stories about politics and what's going on in the world. My current hobbies are reading and walking my dog. 

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    Declan GainesDec 14, 2023 at 10:52 am

    This is a great story by a great writer!

    Reply