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The 'Squad' plays defense as Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar face primary challengers

August 2, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

A series of galvanizing victories in Democratic congressional primaries this year have progressives poised to assert their growing influence in the next Congress.

Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, will be tested by challengers who have sought to turn their star power against them, arguing, in both contests, that the freshmen lawmakers have chased the national spotlight at the expense of their districts.

Allies of Omar and Tlaib, the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, say that their races will run a similar course, ending with decisive electoral confirmations that the Democratic Party's future, even with former Vice President Joe Biden as its presidential nominee, is being driven by a younger, more diverse and increasingly liberal voter base.

In Michigan, Tlaib's 13th District, which has seen its boundaries shift over the years and likely will again ahead of the 2022 midterms, has for most of the past six decades been represented by Black lawmakers with deep ties in Detroit politics.

But we are working in the street every day and we think that's going to make the difference," Beatty said, before shifting the conversation to Tlaib's reluctance, so far, to formally endorse presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Still, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed Tlaib this week, calling her a "tireless advocate for the residents of Michigan's 13th District" and touting her work to secure "critical funding to stop water shutoffs and replace lead pipes. " She also has the support of leading labor groups, including the AFL-CIO of Michigan, the UAW, the Service Employees International Union's Michigan Council, and the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.

Omar is one of the most popular figures on the progressive left and a top target for many moderate national Democrats ahead of her own primary, a week after Tlaib's, on August 11.

We need people that are going to work and unite us to challenge and take hold of these problems that we face as a community," Melton-Meaux said on Thursday, after suggesting Omar had engaged "unnecessarily" in "Twitter fights" with Trump.

Despite being outraised by her challenger, Omar, who lost her father this year to Covid-19, has across-the-board support from the state's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, including popular figures like her predecessor in the 5th District, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

She won with record midterm turnout in Minneapolis and, after 2016, when Trump came close to removing Minnesota from Democrats' breached blue wall, Omar's allies argue that the party -- led by Biden -- needs the energy she brings to the electorate to ensure the 5th District, a Democratic hub and the epicenter of the protest movement that followed the killing of Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, votes in large numbers.

Omar's influence -- and her standing in the community -- was made clear during the early days of the protests, her communications director Jeremy Slevin said, allowing her to bridge the divides her opponent and other critics argue she has worsened.

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