- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2020

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Republican Party has unleashed a secret weapon against Democrats in Minnesota: Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The liberal firebrand has become such a polarizing figure that Rep. Collin C. Peterson, one of the more vulnerable incumbent Democrats, is distancing himself from Ms. Omar in a television ad in his competitive race against former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach.

In fact, the 15-term incumbent has said the freshman lawmaker “doesn’t belong in our party.”

Former Rep. Jason Lewis, meanwhile, is airing an attack ad against Sen. Tina Smith featuring a video clip of Ms. Omar, who wears a hijab, shouting into a microphone, “Dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.”

“That is why Tina Smith endorsed Omar,” the narrator says in the Lewis ad. “Jason Lewis supports the police. If you do too, vote Jason Lewis for the Senate.”

The far left of the Democratic Party heralded Ms. Omar’s victory in the 2018 midterms as a sign of what the party could become and proof of the electoral power of liberal ideas.

The victory made Ms. Omar the first woman of color to represent Minnesota in Congress and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.

Since then, Ms. Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Somali descent, has become a member of “The Squad,” a group of four decidedly liberal minority congresswomen, and become a vocal critic of President Trump and her own party.

She called out Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden for taking down attack ads against Mr. Trump after the president’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

“Why would Biden delay or suspend his campaign when we know Trump would’ve had ads up by noon today ridiculing Biden for testing positive?” she said in a Twitter post. “Get it together.”

Ms. Omar survived a well-funded primary challenger and appears poised to win a second term in the 5th Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis.

The 37-year-old has been a headline-grabbing machine.

She has come under fire for comments about Israel and for a description of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as “some people did something.”

The New York Post reported last month that Mr. Peterson undermined her campaign when asked why he defended her remarks.

“I don’t defend her,” he said. “She doesn’t belong in our party.”

Ms. Omar’s personal life also has been in the spotlight.

The FBI this year was reportedly investigating reports that she married her brother to help his immigration process.

Controversy followed her again after she married Tim Mynett, a political consultant, months after denying the two were having an affair.

She has been a top target of the Republican Party.

Republicans in West Virginia circulated a poster last year linking Ms. Omar to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It featured a photo of the World Trade Center in flames with a caption that read “‘NEVER FORGET’ — YOU SAID” above a picture of Ms. Omar and the caption, “I AM PROOF — YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN.”

Mr. Trump and his supporters have cast Ms. Omar as the true face of the Democratic Party.

At a campaign rally last month, Mr. Trump described the Somali native as a leader of the “radical left maniacs.”

“How about Omar of Minnesota? We are going to win the state of Minnesota because of her, they say,” Mr. Trump told supporters in Pennsylvania. “She’s telling us how to run our country. How did you do where you came from?”

Professor Larry Jacobs said Republicans want Minnesota voters outside the 612 area code of Minneapolis to hear “Omar” whenever Mr. Petersen’s name is mentioned.

“Rep. Omar represents the ‘612 values’ of Minneapolis and its support of ultraliberal policies,” Mr. Jacobs said. “How well that will work statewide is another question.

“The 24/7 news is about the coronavirus uptick in Minnesota and the president’s health,” he said.

Still, Ms. Omar’s rising national profile has created headaches for Democrats like Mr. Peterson in more competitive districts.

Mr. Peterson is airing a television ad highlighting his vote against the impeachment of Mr. Trump.

“Calling Colin Peterson an ally of Ilhan Omar is laughable,” a narrator says in the Peterson ad.

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