debate or not

No fireworks as Ilhan Omar misses primary debate

In FAQ, Antone Melton-Meaux pledges not to let donations 'from the Jewish community' influence his policies


Antone Melton Meaux and Rep. Ilhan Omar

Three of the five candidates running in the August 11 Democratic primary for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district participated last night in a live-streamed debate hosted by the League of Women Voters. The incumbent congresswoman, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), skipped the debate due to votes on the defense bill in Washington, and sent a recorded opening statement. 

The candidates — Antone Melton-Meaux, Les Lester and Daniel Patrick McCarthy — answered a list of questions posed by moderator Patty Robles, a member of the local LWV chapter, who repeatedly mixed up her notes and at times repeated her questions. Another candidate, John Mason, bailed on the debate because he wasn’t feeling well. 

Robles noted that Omar “offered to participate remotely,” in the debate, but “there were too many potential failures during a hybrid virtual studio meeting.” This gave the first-term congresswoman a chance to avoid drawing fire or be put on the defensive by her main challenger Melton-Meaux, who has a fundraising upper hand over Omar. 

In his closing statement, Melton-Meaux said he won’t miss votes on the Hill, “unlike our current congresswoman.” He also pledged to hold 12 town hall meetings “with the people… in a public space. I will stand at a podium, I will let you know what I am doing, how I am doing it, and then I will answer every single one of your questions.” 

Omar’s spokesman Jeremy Slevin tweeted in response that Omar has held 32 such events in her first term. 

‘Jewish’ money question: In a FAQ sent out in an email to supporters and circulated on social media, Melton-Meaux said the campaign contributions he’s “received from the Jewish community” won’t “influence” his policy decisions. 

“I have been clear from the beginning of this campaign that I disagree with a number of [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions, including the unilateral annexation of Palestinian territory,” the candidate stressed. “I have also made it clear that I support more humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, and that I believe the U.S. must work towards strategic reforms of Israeli policy that will ease the pressure of the occupation on Palestinians. More importantly, I’ve always been clear that my policy decisions will always be based on what’s in the best interests of the people in our district.” 

Double standard: Democratic strategist Joel Rubin, who served as director for Jewish outreach for the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, told JI that in his answer, Melton-Meaux “repeated the lie that American Jews only care about Israel… He compounded this dual-loyalty trope by stating that the American Jewish political money he received wouldn’t guide his policy choices. Yet to prove his point, he stated that he ‘disagrees’ with Bibi Netanyahu, implying that American Jewish donations are all about Israel.” Rubin added, “For someone who’s claiming to be a unifying figure that will bring people together on Jewish issues like these, he has a long way to go.” 

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