A prominent civil rights attorney and Black Lives Matter activist announced Monday that she is endorsing Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN-05) opponent in the DFL primary.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, former president of the Minneapolis NAACP and one-time candidate for Minneapolis mayor, criticized Omar for her “dismal track record” and “neglect” of the Fifth Congressional District.
“For the last 15 months, I have waited in vain for Rep. Ilhan Omar to rise to the occasion of prioritizing the needs of the Fifth Congressional District above many of her distractions, which have garnered national headlines and attention. As a resident of the Fifth, an attorney and longtime advocate for equity and justice, I see every day the lingering effects of benign neglect upon our community as well as a desire for real change and access to opportunity,” Levy Armstrong said in a Monday column for The Star Tribune.
She said she decided to endorse Antone Melton-Meaux over Omar after reading his own recent op-ed in The Star Tribune. In the article, Melton-Meaux said Omar “appears to be more focused on her own celebrity than on serving the district.”
“I find it to be refreshing that Melton-Meaux pulled no punches in his opinion piece in highlighting the significant concerns surrounding Omar’s dismal track record, her lack of presence when it’s time to vote in Congress, and her failure to pass any significant legislation until the COVID-19 Relief Act, which only happened very recently. These are issues that we ought to be paying attention to, so we’re able to make an informed decision about who our next leader will be,” Levy Armstrong continued.
Melton-Meaux pointed out that Omar has “the seventh-worst attendance record for missed votes among first-term representatives.”
“From October to December last year, she missed more votes than 94 percent of Congress. That doesn’t work for us. Omar had her first bill passed as part of a coronavirus relief package. While laudable, all of her other proposed bills have failed to go anywhere. That doesn’t work for us,” he added.
He went on to criticize Omar for ignoring her district and failing to be transparent with the local media and her constituents.
“Omar has repeatedly made divisive statements that have been hurtful to members of our Jewish community. She creates distraction and drama, not results. That doesn’t work for us,” he said, noting that 95 percent of Omar’s financial support comes from outside her district.
“Omar failed to find time to even visit all of her district, yet she found time to write an autobiography and travel around the country for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign,” he concluded. “I call on Rep. Omar to commit to a series of public debates to defend her poor representation and lack of transparency and accountability to the people of our district and the residents of Minnesota.”
Kate Wittenstein, treasurer of Omar’s campaign, published a rebuttal to Melton-Meaux’s piece in which she accused him of “race, class, and gender erasure” and using “dog whistles to Islamophobia.”
“In responding to critiques of Omar, Wittenstein placed the blame on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Omar’s failure to get a single bill out of a House committee before January. Omar is a member of the House of Representatives controlled by the Democrats, so this explanation falls short and exemplifies Omar’s inability to get things done within her own party,” Levy Armstrong replied.
Wittenstein touted Omar’s support for the Liberian community in her response, but failed to “mention that Omar voted against the bill that granted them permanent resident status,” Levy Armstrong noted.
“When all is said and done, the Fifth District deserves a leader who will put our interests first, and one who will be accountable and transparent. There is too much at stake to allow another two years of what we have experienced over the last 15 months. We deserve better,” she concluded.
Melton-Meaux, a Minneapolis attorney and mediator, will face off against Omar for the DFL nomination in the August 11 primary.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Antone Melton-Meaux” by Antone Melton-Meaux. Photo “Ilhan Omar” by Ilhan Omar.