The ‘Squad’ seems positioned to influence Congress for years after a strong showing by key members in closely watched primaries with national implications.
With Rep. Ilhan Omar‘s victory on Tuesday, she joined squad members Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who all held their own against Democratic primary challengers in recent weeks.
Her win was the latest series of victories by the progressive lawmakers. In Minnesota, Omar defeated attorney Antone Melton-Meaux, who garnered attention for outraising her during the campaign.
Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar addresses media after lunch at the Mercado Central in Minneapolis Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, primary Election Day in Minnesota. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
“Tonight, our movement didn’t just win,” Omar tweeted. “We earned a mandate for change. Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown.”
“It has been the honor of my life to represent you in Congress and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of the 5th District in the years to come,” she continued.
The Somali born lawmaker was elected as one of the first Muslim American women in Congress, along with Tlaib. Her outspoken criticism of President Trump and advocacy for far-left ideas have gained national attention and — with the help of her Twitter feed — made her a target of Republicans and even some fellow Democrats.
No stranger to controversy, she found herself apologizing after making comments about Israel and money that even some fellow Democrats viewed as anti-Semitic.
Melton-Meaux said he supported Omar’s first run for Congress in 2018 but criticized her for the number of votes she’s missed.
“She has been ineffective in Washington because she is divisive, and she’s focused on her celebrity,” Melton-Meaux told The Associated Press.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, police reform also emerged as an issue. Omar runs Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District – which covers much of the city of Minneapolis — seen as the ground for nationwide protests sparked by Floyd’s death in police custody on May 25.
Omar supported a push by a majority of the Minneapolis City Council to replace the city’s police department with something new. Melton-Meaux did not support that but did support shifting some funding away from police to more social service-oriented programs.
Tlaib — another member of the four-person squad — won her primary election in Detroit last Wednesday and proclaimed that her win showed that the progressive lawmakers are coming back to Congress stronger and bigger.
She tweeted “Our squad is big!” after the victory on Tuesday by Omar.
She outraised and beat Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in the 13th District primary by a two-to-one margin, which was seen as another shot in the arm for the progressive left-wing of the Democratic Party that has been taking on establishment figures. Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist also defeated Rep. William Lacy Clay — a longtime St. Louis-area congressman — in Missouri’s Democratic primary on Aug 4.
“Let it be known that in the 13th District, just like in communities across our country, we are done with establishment politics that put corporations first,” Tlaib said in a victory statement. “If I was considered the most vulnerable member of the Squad, I think it’s safe to say the Squad is here to stay, and it’s only getting bigger.”
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks as, from left, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., listen during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 15, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez easily defeated former CNBC contributor Michelle Caruso-Cabrera and other challengers during New York’s June primary, winning 70 percent of the vote. She outraised Caruso-Cabrera who was backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and managed only 19 percent.
After winning, Ocasio-Cortez said the victory proves the far-left movement she leads in New York and nationally is “a mandate.”
“When I won in 2018, many dismissed our victory as a ‘fluke,'” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on June 23. “Our win was treated as an aberration, or bc my opponent ‘didn’t try.’ So from the start, tonight’s race was important to me. Tonight we are proving that the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It‘s a mandate.”
The fourth squad member, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, represents Massachusetts’ 7th congressional District and is unopposed in the state’s Democratic primary on Sept. 1.
Fox News’ Morgan Phillips, Marisa Schultz and The Associated Press contributed to this report