Rep. Ilhan Omar and her challengers spar over political style, campaign cash

Patrick Condon, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Political News

Mason also noted that Omar's support for Medicare for All is out of step with House Democratic leaders, who are committed to protecting the Obama-era Affordable Care Act from GOP efforts to dismantle it.

But some of the sharpest attacks in the debate came from exchanges over their fundraising, much of it from donors and interest groups from out of state. Altogether, including money raised by GOP candidate Lacy Johnson, the race has attracted more than $10 million in contributions, making it one of the costliest in the nation.

While Omar has proved herself a prolific fundraiser, Melton-Meaux has outraised her since he entered the race; and he noted that he has received more money than she has from within the district.

But Omar and Mason alike were sharply critical of Melton-Meaux for the fact that a significant portion of his fundraising and spending from some outside groups has been from Republican donors mainly motivated by a desire to get her out of office.

"These are people really who are very much invested in creating a toxic environment, that are invested in a president who not only has a Muslim ban but invested in singling out the only member in Congress that comes from one of those countries that is on the Muslim ban," said Omar, who emigrated to the U.S. from Somalia with her family.

Melton-Meaux jabbed back by arguing that Omar's campaign has "tried to plant the idea that I'm anti-immigrant, which is deeply troubling." He said the attack came in response to his use of his personal story as the descendant of American slaves.

Omar responded: "I never have, and it's really sad that is being, that lie is being spoken right here."

A debate moderator asked Omar to respond to frequent criticism, from Melton-Meaux and others, of her recent marriage to a D.C.-based political consultant whose firm is a major recipient of her reelection funds. A Federal Election Commission filing this week shows that the firm, the E Street Group, has now received more than $1.6 million from Omar's campaign.

"I don't pay my husband. I pay the firm to do work," Omar said. Most of the $600,000 directed to the firm since July 1 went directly to other vendors for TV commercials and campaign literature, she said.


Melton-Meaux also attacked both Omar and Mason for past campaign finance violations.

"I find it ironic I'm the only person on this panel who hasn't had an ethics violation on campaign finance," Melton-Meaux said, noting that Mason was reprimanded by the FEC for not filing reports on time; Omar faced past scrutiny from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board when she was a state legislator.

While more of Mason's attacks were pointed at Melton-Meaux, he did save some criticism for Omar. He said he's found it disingenuous that she has positioned herself as President Donald Trump's "worst nightmare."

Antone Melton-Meaux says he's a "uniter."

In fact, Mason said, "she's Trump's best dream," adding, "the only person benefiting from Omar is Omar."

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