How Rep. Ilhan Omar survived a close call in Tuesday's primary

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar held her seat in Congress on Tuesday night after defeating Democratic primary challenger Don Samuels by 2,500 votes.

The race wasn't close because Samuels got impressive vote totals, a FOX 9 analysis indicates. In fact, Samuels got 13,000 fewer raw votes than Omar’s 2020 challenger, Antone Melton-Meaux. Samuels lost his own precinct on Minneapolis's north side.

The race was close because Omar got 46,000 fewer votes than she did in 2020. Her totals lagged in both the city and suburban portions of Minnesota's fifth congressional district.

Minneapolis is more than half of the district and Omar’s strength. But Tuesday night, her margins shrank in all 13 wards. The erosion was greatest on the north and northeast sides: 

  • Ward 5 - 68% in 2020, 55% now
  • Ward 3 - 61% in 2020, 50% now
  • Ward 4 - 63% in 2020, 52% now

After winning all but one ward in 2020, Omar lost three wards on Tuesday night: Ward 7 on the west side, Ward 11 on the far south side, and Ward 13 on the southwest side.

The three Minneapolis wards that Omar lost were the places where the 2021 police ballot question performed worst. In each of the wards, the ballot question got less than 36% support.

Omar supported the ballot question, which would have stripped the Minneapolis Police Department from the city charter and replaced it with a safety agency tasked with taking a public health approach to crime. Samuels opposed the ballot question and has sued the city to compel the hiring of more police officers.

Lastly, a note about the suburbs, which form a "C" around the north, west and south sides of Minneapolis. They were basically a draw in 2020, with Omar losing them to Melton-Meaux by less than 1,000 votes.

This year, Samuels won the suburbs by 6,800 votes. It wasn't enough to overcome a 9,300-vote deficit in Minneapolis.