By Panashe Matemba-Mutasa, Mshale Reporter
Wednesday May 11, 2022
The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) has once again
endorsed Rep. Ilhan Omar as she seeks re-election to represent Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District.
Omar and former Minneapolis city councilmember Don Samuels
battled it out at the 5th Congressional District (CD5) Convention held Saturday
at North Community High School.
“The Minnesota House of Representatives under DFL control
argue for some of the most progressive policies, but we still have so much work
to do,” said Governor Tim Walz.
Omar was first sworn into office in January of 2019. She is
the first ever African refugee to be elected to Congress, one of the first
Muslim American women to do so, and the very first woman of color to represent
Omar is a Somali-born immigrant whose family fled the
country’s civil war when she was 8 years old. Her interest in politics began in
her teen years. She was a policy fellow at the University of Minnesota’s
Humphrey School of Public Affairs before winning a seat in 2016 to represent
District 60B in the Minnesota House of Representatives. From then, her
political career continued to grow, and she has been re-elected each term since
her first swearing into Congress.
Don Samuels was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and emigrated to
the United States for college. Samuels said he felt called to a career in
politics when a bullet shattered the window of his soon-to-be newborn son’s
“For some it would have been a reason to pack up and move,
but for us it was a sign to organize,” said Samuels.
Samuels then began advocating for safe neighborhoods in
Minneapolis, and when a city council seat became vacant, he swiftly took the
opportunity. During his time on the city council, he continued to address
issues of violence in local neighborhoods.
Additionally, he founded Minneapolis’ “Ban the Box” policy, which
eliminated the requirement for hopeful job applicants to disclose past
felonies. Samuels has since left the city council but continues to volunteer at
various organizations to improve issues of safety in his community.
During a question-and-answer session, the candidates
participated in a panel discussion where they shared their stances on hot
issues in their neighborhoods. The most pressing question was that of abortion,
which has taken centerstage following recent leaked majority opinion that
suggest the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade, would
leave the issue to the states.
Samuels said while he had not had much opportunity to speak
on the issue during his career, he supported Roe v. Wade wholeheartedly.
“Despite a popular rumor going around, I support a woman’s
right to choose, and always have,” said Samuels.
Omar said women’s rights have been a key focus area in her
“Abortion is healthcare, and women should be the ones to
make decisions pertaining to their bodies,” said Omar.
Another delegate asked the candidates’ position on President
Biden’s initiative that would cancel student loan debt for thousands of college
students and graduates in the country.
Omar said it was an issue she’d been working on for years,
as young people struggle to buy homes and older Americans put off retirement to
pay off the loans.
“I introduced that legislation in my first term and have
been trying to get the president to use his executive power ever since,” said
Samuels said that while he agreed with cancelling student
debt, it was important to apply an “income cap.”
“It is a worthy cause, especially for African Americans,
Native Americans, and poor people, but we must make sure we don’t cancel the
student debt of millionaires,” said Samuels.
On the issue of healthcare, the candidates were asked to
share their stance on the idea of universal healthcare. Samuels said universal
healthcare is a goal he’s continued to support and that he upholds the values
of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
“Much of my career has been focused on advancing the
Affordable Care Act, which ultimately increased access to health insurance,”
“Much of my career has been focused on passing equitable
healthcare legislation: for example, we capped insulin at $35,” said Omar.
The candidates were also asked about how they have worked to
serve marginalized communities. Samuels said that his humble beginnings in
Jamaica equipped him with the perspective necessary to be an effective public
“I grew up in a poor community and saw the difference in the
way people of color were treated, so I always advocate for resources to be
allocated to marginalized communities.
“As someone who carries multiple marginalized identities,
intersectionality is important to me,” said Omar. “That is why I have advocated
for legislation to close disparity gaps.”
In the end, Omar got more delegates to clinch the
endorsement. Primary elections in Minnesota will be on August 9 with the
candidate filing period starting on May 17.