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Public safety emerges as top issue in race for 5th Congressional District

Mayor Frey on Thursday threw his support behind Don Samuels, who is challenging Rep. Ilhan Omar in the DFL primary next week.

MINNEAPOLIS — Mayor Jacob Frey endorsed former city council member Don Samuels on Thursday for the DFL primary against incumbent Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is seeking a third term in the Fifth Congressional District.

Frey, along with four mayors of St. Louis Park, Edina, Golden Valley and New Hope, are supporting Samuels in his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives. Last November, Rep. Omar endorsed Frey's top two opponents and urged Minneapolis voters not to cast ballots for him in the ranked choice system. 

The primary is set for Tuesday, Aug. 9. 

"I'm going to Congress to partner with Mayor Frey and the other mayors," Samuels said. "We're going to hold hands across our jurisdictions, and I'm going to bring resources here, provide what they need."

At a campaign event Thursday at Shiloh Temple on the North Side of Minneapolis, Samuels again made public safety a top issue on his campaign. Before he announced his run for Congress, Samuels made local headlines last year for his involvement in a lawsuit against the city over police staffing, and he also led opposition to a November ballot question that sought to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety.

Samuels has criticized Omar for supporting that ballot question.

"It certainly was a very local issue for us, before our Congressperson jumped in with her national voice, to tilt the scales — and failed," Samuels said.

At an official town hall session in Robbinsdale on Thursday night, Rep. Omar did not mention Mayor Frey's endorsement of her opponent or Samuels' criticism, since the event was not related to her campaign. However, without mentioning Frey's name, she blamed the mayor and city council for not taking strong enough action on violent crime and public safety.

"If you continue to neglect your job, your city will rot," Omar said. "And we are now dealing with the repercussions of what happens when you have a leader who does not take his job seriously."

In an interview after the event, Omar shrugged off news of Mayor's Frey's endorsement of her opponent. She holds endorsements from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the state DFL, among others.

"They certainly appreciate the effectiveness of the work that I do and how I deliver for the people of my district," Omar said. "Political endorsements happen, but they will not change the outcome of this election."

Omar touted her record in Congress over Samuels.

"I've actually made a difference in regards to introducing and working on legislation that creates better safety measures for our communities. I've delivered resources to work on crime prevention. As you know, we've just passed bipartisan legislation to deal with gun violence. We've delivered lots of resources to deal with mental health and substance abuse," Omar said. "My opponent served on the city council for three cycles as the chair of public safety. And made zero difference." 

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