Thursday December 5, 2019
By Torey Van Oot
Rep. Ilhan Omar takes the stage to introduce Sen. Bernie Sanders at a rally inside of Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Nov. 3, 2019.Evan Frost | MPR News file
A Minneapolis attorney is launching a Democratic primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, making his first bid for public office.
Antone Melton-Meaux filed campaign paperwork with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) late Tuesday. He joins a growing field of challengers seeking to oust the freshman congresswoman, a Somali refugee who made history as one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.
Melton-Meaux, who runs his own mediation practice, declined to cite specific concerns with Omar’s representation, but said he has heard a desire for a change in local leadership in meetings across the district.“I think there’s a deep hunger from residents of this district for someone who is deeply engaged and has experience building community and coalitions and being effective,” he said. “And that’s what I want to bring back to this office.”
The Uptown resident cited a track record that includes volunteering as a minister at Salem English Lutheran Church and joining the boards of a number of prominent local institutions, including the Guthrie Theater and the Conflict Resolution Center.
“I have been focused on the need to show up, listen and to get things done for others,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life and I want to continue doing that for the Fifth Congressional District.”
With a background in business, Melton-Meaux appears likely to reach out to a more moderate wing of the DFL Party, as well as to centrists and independents. Melton-Meaux, whose father integrated his high school in Kentucky in the 1950s, has decried racism and police abuses of black men. But he also has criticized the leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement, writing in a 2015 Star Tribune op-ed that “the movement needs a more transformative message focusing on the bigger issues that plague the black community.”
Omar, a former one-term state legislator, has emerged as one of the most visible and outspoken politicians in Washingon. A landslide 2018 win made her the first nonwhite woman elected to Congress from Minnesota. Her association with “The Squad,” a group of progressive freshman women of color in the House, fueled attacks from Republicans, including President Donald Trump, and further elevated her profile. And a series of controversial comments and actions, including tweets that were widely condemned for relying on anti-Semitic language and lingering questions about her marital history, have attracted scrutiny and criticism.
At least seven challengers, including one other Democrat, have filed paperwork with the FEC to run for Omar’s seat next year.