As Ellison departs Congress, Omar chases another first

COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) — In a coffee shop at the edge of a working-class Minneapolis suburb, not far from the high school Ilhan Omar attended in the years after she immigrated to the U.S., some two dozen people crowded around a table to hear her make the case for sending her to Congress.

“There is a clear and dangerous crossroads to where our country finds itself,” Omar told the group. “You can see the politics of fear and scarcity that’s led us to the current administration we have.”

Rep. Keith Ellison’s decision to leave Congress to run for attorney general back home in Minnesota set off a scramble for his Minneapolis-area congressional seat, which has been a Democratic lock for more than half a century. It’s a race with echoes of the recent primary upset in New York, in which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old self-described democratic socialist, defeated one of the most powerful House Democrats.

Though the Minnesota race has no incumbent, Omar is hoping to harness the energy that Ocasio-Cortez tapped to defeat five other candidates in the Aug. 14 primary, including the state’s first Latina lawmaker, state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, and Margaret Anderson Kelliher, a former state House speaker who spent a decade as a powerbroker in Minnesota politics.

Omar broke into elected office by unseating a 22-term Democratic incumbent in 2016 while en route to becoming the nation’s first Somali-American state lawmaker. With one term under her belt in the Minnesota House, she’s touting her background — “I myself would have been part of the travel ban,” she says — to persuade voters that for her, the fight against President Donald Trump would be personal.

Her message will be tested against Kelliher, who has played up her political battles with then-Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty as proof that she, too, would make an effective Trump foil.

Torres Ray, who emigrated from Colombia more than 30 years ago, says she’s also well-suited to stand up to the president’s policies, pointing to her tenure in state Senate and experience on immigration issues. She has called…

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