U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar launches 2020 re-election campaign

The first-term congresswoman kicked off her “Send her back to Congress” re-election campaign with dozens of supporters Thursday night.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar chats with attendees at Ilhan Omar 2020 Reelection Kickoff: “Send Her Back to Congress” at Aria in Minneapolis on Thursday, Jan. 23. (Nur B. Adam / Minnesota Daily)

Nur B. Adam

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar chats with attendees at Ilhan Omar 2020 Reelection Kickoff: “Send Her Back to Congress” at Aria in Minneapolis on Thursday, Jan. 23. (Nur B. Adam / Minnesota Daily)

Mohamed Ibrahim

After stepping into the national spotlight during her first term, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar gathered with supporters Thursday night to mark the start of her re-election campaign.

Omar launched her “Send her back to Congress” 2020 re-election campaign alongside state and local officials at a kickoff event in Minneapolis. The freshman representative, whose district includes Minneapolis and some surrounding areas, said healthcare, student debt and refugee status remain policy goals.

Omar, the first Somali American elected to Congress and the first woman of color to represent a Minnesota congressional district, was elected to Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District seat with more than 77 percent of the vote in 2018. 

“I’m not running for re-election because I enjoyed being the first,” Omar said to supporters. “I’m running for re-election because I understand what it means to get in the ring and fight for everyday people, working class people, poor people and every single person who lives on the margins of our society.”

Speakers at the event included Omar’s predecessor and current Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, state Sen. Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, and Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins. Twenty local officials endorsed the congresswoman prior to the event, where dozens of constituents and volunteers showed support for Omar.

“Just seeing how persistent that she is, and how hardworking that she is, it makes me want to put my support behind somebody like that,” said Meddi Bah, 24, a volunteer with Omar’s campaign.

During her freshman term, Omar introduced more than a dozen bills, including legislation to increase availability of public and affordable housing and forgive student debt. University freshman Abdulaziz Mohamed said Omar’s policies catered to students, along with her support of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s plan to make public colleges and universities free, enhance his support as a first-time voter this November.

“For someone like myself, who’s going to have massive student debt coming out of college and who’s even looking at going to law school too, that’s a very frightening thing,” Mohamed said. “Having that burden lifted off of you, it’s going to open up doors for a lot of things in the future.”

Omar has been a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump, calling for impeachment months before the U.S. House of Representatives officially launched the inquiry in September. The president has previously attacked Omar and “The Squad,” the quartet of progressive freshman Democrats including Omar and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

Michael Shann, a resident of the 5th Congressional District, said he has supported Omar since she was elected to the Legislature representing House District 60B in 2016. But while he admires Omar’s outspokenness, Shann said he thinks the congresswoman will have a harder time getting elected in 2020.

“There was a lot of reaction to her, and I think some misunderstanding of some of the things that she supports and some of the things she’s said,” he said. “Because of that, I think it’ll be a little bit more of a struggle for her to get re-elected.”