Don Samuels believes he should have Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 5th Congressional District seat because the lefty lawmaker’s “style” is “not compatible with the needs of the moment.”
On Monday evening, voters got a sense of Samuels’s style.
In a since-deleted tweet, the north Minneapolis community organizer responded to a combative tweet from Briana Rose Lee, a former Omar re-election canvasser who now works with the Minneapolis DFL. Rose Lee weaponized the 2021 death of Isaac Childress III, a Northside six year old who drowned while in the care of Samuels and his wife, Sondra, whose insurance company paid a $301,000 wrongful death settlement to Isaac’s family.
The “can’t swim” bit seems to allude to Samuels’s lack of swimming ability, as confirmed in this detailed Sahan Journal account of the drowning; he stayed on the shore of the Mississippi River while his wife tried to save the children, some of whom also couldn’t swim. “I could have told you, no, [the kids] can’t go swimming. No, they don’t know how to swim. Why are y’all even there?” Dominique Alexander, the grieving mother of Childress, told SJ. Why you’d defensively cite your inability to swim in a flippant, defensive, even boastful tweet… baffling.
Seeking clarity, we reached out to the Samuels campaign but didn’t hear back. Just before 10 p.m., the former Minneapolis City Council member issued the following apology.
Samuels, 72, is the latest centrist Democrat challenger seeking to unseat Rep. Omar, following Antone Melton-Meaux’s failed primary attempt in 2020. (That race also featured Republican Lacy Johnson, who got 25.8% of the vote, and notorious oddball Mickey Moore, who got 9.5%.) Republican candidates Royce White, the former hoops star with his own, uh, style of tweets, Cicely Davis, and Shukri Abdirahman have all announced bids to defeat Omar. Cynically, one could view fringe challenges to Omar—one of the few unabashed leftists in congress—as a consultant cash-grab, since out-of-state dollars pour in every cycle. Who could forget Danielle Stella, the Qanon weirdo who fought off felony shoplifting charges while competing for Omar’s job?
After a decade on the city council, Samuels ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2013, losing out to colleague Betsy Hodges. He’d serve on the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education for one term. Last fall, Samuels became one the most vocal opponents of the ballot measure that sought to reimagine the Minneapolis Police Department, forming a tight partnership with Mayor Jacob Frey and even suing the city over the ballot language. Expect prominent pro-cop messaging as Samuels runs for congress. This is, after all, a man who once called the cops to shutdown a hot dog giveaway.