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Community activist, former council member Don Samuels to challenge Rep. Ilhan Omar

“The stakes have never been higher," Samuels said in a statement announcing his candidacy on Tuesday.

MINNEAPOLIS — Long-time community activist and former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels has officially registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to oppose Rep. Ilhan Omar in the DFL primary for the 5th Congressional District in August.

A March 8 FEC filing shows Samuels, 72, would run as a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party in an effort to unseat two-time incumbent Omar. 

“The stakes have never been higher," Samuels said in a statement announcing his candidacy. "Our city, our nation, and our world are threatened by devastating economic disparities, the catastrophic effects of climate change, and a sustained attack on democracy here at home and abroad. While Rep. Omar and I share similar views on many issues, I believe this moment calls for a different approach to leadership–one that seeks to build a united coalition able to achieve greater progress for everyone."

The Jamaican-born politician moved to the United States to study art. After building a successful career in the private sector, won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council in 2003. He spent much of his time on the council sounding the alarm about youth violence in Minneapolis.

Ten years later, Samuels announced his bid for mayor of Minneapolis, eventually losing to Betsy Hodges.

Samuels later served on the board for Minneapolis Public Schools.

Last year, Samuels and his wife Sondra successfully campaigned against efforts to abolish and replace MPD, urging residents to vote no on a November ballot question. Samuels said while he and others were "not satisfied with the status quo," they hoped to change MPD within the current framework.

Rep. Omar, who announced her intention to seek a third term in February, was first elected to Congress in 2019, making her the first Somali American to serve in either legislative chamber. Omar then won her reelection in 2020 with 64.5% of the vote.

Political science professor David Schultz says this race will be determined by name recognition and money. 

"She’s got name recognition, she also has an incredible amount of money and her name recognition has helped with that fundraising," said Schultz. He went on to say, "about 98% of incumbents win re-election.”

Though both are Democrats, Samuels' campaign said he differs from Omar on issues like the "defund the police" movement, as well as President Biden's infrastructure bill, which Omar voted against.

In a news release, Samuels' campaign said the former city councilmember has already picked up the support of former DFL party chair Brian Melendez and former MPD chief Medaria Arradondo.

Omar's campaign has not yet commented on Samuels' entry into the 5th district race.

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