2024 election battle among Arab Americans shaping up in Ilhan Omar’s Minnesota congressional district
By Ray Hanania
At least two Arab Americans have announced their plans to challenge three-term Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-5th) in next year’s congressional elections.
Sarah Gad, 36, overcame tragedy and a bout with the law to transform her life and graduate with a University of Chicago law degree vowing to help those who face overwhelming challenges.
A former Illinois resident who recently moved to Minnesota where she now practices law, Gad was the victim of a severe automobile accident in 2012.
A medical student at the time, Gad was subsequently charged and convicted of felony abuse of opioid drugs which she used to counter severe pain trauma from her accident. It took two years for Gad to break the drug addiction from the accident and to get back on her feet.
“My story, my history, really resonates with people,” Gad recently told the Minnesota StarTribune.
“It allows me to connect with them on a deeper level and understand the day to day issues that everyday constituents are facing.”
Gad sued the Cook County jail where she was serving her sentence in Illinois for the opioid and accusing guards of abusing her. The Cook County jail is notorious for abuse and many controversies. Gad won her lawsuit, broke free of drugs, and used her settlement to pay for law school, graduating in 2020.
Gad’s tragic story of becoming addicted to drugs after experiencing a terrible car accident and then turning her life around has drawn national attention and praise.
Last month, Gad appeared on the nationally syndicated television interview program, The Tamron Hall Show, where she detailed her struggle to lift herself up and use her experience to help others.
The daughter of Egyptian Muslim immigrants, Gad has filed with the Federal Election Commission to qualify as a candidate in Minnesota’s August 13, 2024 Democratic Primary in the 5th Congressional district to challenge Omar. She plans a formal announcement later this week.
Running again on the Republican ticket is Iraqi American Dalia Al-Aqidi, 55, a pro-Israel Muslim and former journalist. If Al-Aqidi can win in the Republican primary election, she would face-off in the Nov. 5, 2023 General election against the Democratic winner of the August 13 Democratic contest. But she has an uphill election fight.
Al-Aqidi sought the Republican Primary endorsement in Minnesota in August 11, 2020 but she said she withdrew from the election one month before the election. Her name remained on the ballot and she received 4.7 percent of the vote. Republican rival Lacy Johnson, who she endorsed on withdrawing, received 76.6 percent of the 11,992 votes cast.
Al-Aqidi, who fled Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1988, slammed Omar, who has often been the target of pro-Israel activists, for supporting Arab, Muslim and Palestinian rights, on her website, writing:
“In Congress, she [Omar] constantly forwards or sponsors legislation that attacks our allies while remaining silent about America’s adversaries,” Al-Aqidi’s statement says.
“The fact that she was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee is further evidence of how untethered she is from the center of American thinking. Her hateful rhetoric and noxious antisemitism is toxic and serves only to gain attention for herself and position her as a celebrity—she is not fighting for us, she is fighting for herself.”
Omar defeated Johnson with 64.3 percent of the 398,263 votes cast in November 3, 2020.
Omar is the first woman of Color and Somali-Arab and Muslim American to hold congressional office representing Minnesota, first elected in 2019. The 5th District has a large Somali population and is overwhelmingly Democratic.
In November 2022, Omar defeated Republican Cicely Davis, who had strong backing from the pro-Israel lobby, by a landslide victory with 74.3 percent of the votes cast out of a total of 288,206 votes.
But Omar is vulnerable in the Democratic contest. In the August 9, 2022 Democratic primary, Omar only defeated her Democratic rival Don Samuels by a razor slim margin of 2,466 votes. Omar received only 50.3 percent of the 114,567 votes cast.
Omar has been a consistent voice challenging the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war on Gaza following the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7, writing on X (formerly Twitter), “I condemn the horrific acts we are seeing unfold today in Israel against children, women, the elderly, and the unarmed people who are being slaughtered and taken hostage by Hamas. Such senseless violence will only repeat the back and forth cycle we’ve seen, which we cannot allow to continue. We need to call for de-escalation and ceasefire. I will keep advocating for peace and justice throughout the Middle East.”
Omar was first elected in 2018 succeeding Minnesota’s first Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison who became Minnesota’s Attorney General in 2019 after serving three four-year terms in Congress.
I condemn the horrific acts we are seeing unfold today in Israel against children, women, the elderly, and the unarmed people who are being slaughtered and taken hostage by Hamas. Such senseless violence will only repeat the back and forth cycle we've seen, which we cannot allow…
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 7, 2023
For more information on Sarah Gad, click this link.
For more information on Dalia AL-Aqidi, click this link.
For more information Ilhan Omar, click this link.
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