On Tuesday night, Rep. Ilhan Omar effectively won a third term representing Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, after she narrowly defeated former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels — by 2.2 percentage points — in the DFL primary for the seat.
In a heavily-Democratic district, Omar is a sure win in the November election against Republican Cicely Davis, who cleared a small GOP primary field Tuesday night.
But the close DFL primary race had some pundits speculating there may be a crack in the sometimes-polarizing Omar’s armor: Until Tuesday, she had easy victories in primaries, winning handily in 2018 and 2020 due in large part to big turnout and huge margins of victory in Minneapolis, which makes up most of the district.
Here’s a look at votes on Tuesday, and how the results compare to years past.
Smaller Minneapolis margin
Compared to previous DFL primaries, Samuels managed to cut into Omar’s significant advantage in the city of Minneapolis.
In 2020, Omar beat Antone Melton-Meaux, who ran as a more moderate DFLer, by 19.7 percentage points. Her victory was almost entirely due to a major advantage in the city of Minneapolis, where the vast majority of 5th District votes are located.
In Minneapolis, Omar beat Melton-Meaux by nearly a 2:1 margin and won more votes than her challenger in many of the district’s suburbs.
The Minneapolis advantage was similar in 2018, when Omar first ran to represent the district, except that the field had three major contenders going into Election Day, including former state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray and former Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Omar got 48.2 percent of the votes to Kelliher’s 30.4 percent and Torres Ray’s 13 percent.
This time around, Omar won only 1.3 votes per Samuels vote in Minneapolis. Samuels also got more votes than her in more suburbs — and by greater margins — than Melton-Meaux did in 2020.
Lower turnout overall
Another thing worth noting is that overall turnout in the 5th District DFL primary was much lower on Tuesday night than in either 2018 or 2020 (caveat: the district is shaped a bit differently due to redistricting).
That could be for a lot of reasons, some of them having to do with news events and what else was on the ballot. In 2018, around 135,300 ballots were cast in the 5th District DFL primary, but it was also a year with big governor, attorney general and U.S. Senate primary races on the ballot. In 2020, a lot was going on: amid the pandemic, vote-by-mail numbers were high and the election happened in the wake of the Minneapolis Police murder of George Floyd. Nearly 178,000 people voted in the CD5 DFL primary that year.
This year, numbers were significantly lower, at less than 115,000.