Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District race is arguably the most intriguing nationally out of all the Congressional elections in 2020, with incumbent Representative Ilhan Omar (D) facing pressure from Republicans Dalia al-Aqidi and Lacy Johnson.
SaraCarter.com has now profiled the two prominent Republicans challenging Omar. Johnson joined “The Sara Carter Show” in October 2019, while this reporter interviewed al-Aqidi on Friday. This reporter made multiple attempts to contact Rep. Omar‘s campaign communications team for an interview but has not received a response. This story will be updated if her team replies.
Born in Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s regime, Dalia al-Aqidi and her family fled the country in 1988 due to persecution. As an Iraqi journalist, she spoke out against Hussein. Her family left almost all of their possessions behind when they took off. The family created a new life for themselves in America and became U.S. citizens.
“When Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Linda Sarsour say that they represent Muslims in America…hell no they don’t!” said al-Aqidi. “People like them made their careers arguing that America is evil, racist and Islamophobic. Nobody represents Muslims or any other group in America. Every person represents themself and themself only.”
Arriving In America
When she arrived in the U.S., al-Aqidi, who already knew how to speak English, continued her career in journalism as a radio anchor for Voice of America. She subsequently worked as an anchor and political correspondent for several Middle Eastern and American media outlets and served as a White House correspondent for a number of years. She was deemed “the most-watched TV reporter nobody in America has seen” in a 2004 Chicago Tribune article.
“I had nightmares for years and years that I wake up and I’m in the middle of Iraq during Saddam’s period. People would recognize me and run after me to try to capture me and I was running, running, running,” al-Aqidi told the Chicago Tribune in 2004. “I left with two suitcases. My grandmother didn’t know. My aunts didn’t, my uncles. No one knew that we were leaving. We had to hide the cash between the covers of the suitcase, knowing that if they catch us, we’ll be dead.”
Working With U.S. Forces: A Muslim Refugee
“Ilhan Omar was never impressed by this country… She hates it and she is trying to change it,” al-Aqidi
In 2007, al-Aqidi began working with the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Baghdad, where she helped develop a new Iraqi News Center. She also was involved in training Iraqi security ministries on how to develop and sustain professional news media offices. After this opportunity, she returned to reporting and was based in Iraq, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.
While al-Aqidi and Omar are both Muslim refugees, they have vastly different life experiences and values.
“Ilhan Omar was never impressed by this country,” al-Aqidi, referring to Benjamin Weingarten’s newly published book ‘American Ingrate,’ told this reporter. “She hates it and she is trying to change it. Because of her identity politics, with my background, she cannot accuse me of being anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant or anti-woman. But I’m anti-extremism and anti-Islamism. I’m tired of the racism and anti-Semitism she’s spreading. It’s so toxic and she needs to be stopped.”
Ilhan Omar’s Scandals
With a number of scandals surrounding Rep. Omar, al-Aqidi says now is the time to unseat her.
“It’s now over never. She’s vulnerable,” al-Aqidi said of the incumbent Congresswoman. “She’s made mistake after mistake, gotten involved in scandal after scandal. She doesn’t feel obliged to answer peoples’ questions. I hope I can debate her and if not…if I was her, I would not agree. It’s a win-win for me.”
She does not plan on letting up on her opponent and says she will continue to point out her missteps.
“Did she commit immigration fraud? What is the story of her relationship with her adviser and why did she pay his firm $500,000? I’m in a Congressional campaign and I know where all my campaign money is going. That number for a Congressional race is ridiculous,” al-Aqidi said.
Dalia al-Aqidi is relatively new to Minnesota but she senses a feeling of support from the people who reside in her district, including the Somali-American community, which Rep. Omar belongs to. Al-Aqidi says women in her district, especially Somali women, feel offended by the way Rep. Omar has conducted herself both as a candidate and a Congresswoman.
“I went to donate blood Friday and when I headed home, my Uber driver was Somali,” al-Aqidi told this reporter. “After three or four minutes, he said ‘you’re the one running against Ilhan! We’re sick and tired of her scandals and she makes us look bad.’ Then he stopped the car and we took pictures together.”
As for her personal life, al-Aqidi says she has been single for a long time and is currently focused on defeating Rep. Omar.
“I’ve never married my brother and I’ve never had a relationship with a married man,” she chuckled.
Learning From COVID-19 Crisis
Dalia donated blood since she was healthy enough to do so during this coronavirus pandemic. She says this situation has exposed many flaws in the current system.
“There are lessons to be learned from this crisis,” said al-Aqidi. “We should be more prepared in case something like this happens again. I believe the government is dealing with it in a professional manner. Private companies are now helping out. Everyone needs to chip in and be a part of the solution.”
She adds that the Chinese Communist Party should be held accountable for failing to contain the outbreak.
“I would urge the government to investigate the origin of the virus because we want to know if it was made in a lab or not,” al-Aqidi said. “Also, lots of European countries are blaming China for covering up the outbreak. The Chinese government should be held accountable for the suffering of people around the world. It’s quite clear that government cannot be trusted.”
On Tuesday, Rep. Omar called for the release of ICE detainees and prisoners held on bail amid the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., which al-Aqidi disagrees with.
Omar Sympathizes With Iran, says al-Aqidi
As a Congresswoman, al-Aqidi would not support authoritarian regimes in countries like China and Iran. Her opponent, Rep. Omar, has expressed sympathies toward the Iranian regime, led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.
“Human rights mean nothing to these regimes and I would suggest bringing back jobs and factories from China so that we can have everything done here and at least if something goes wrong, we can hold the group responsible accountable,” she said.
When asked about her position on Iran, al-Aqidi says she is vehemently against the regime and thinks the U.S. made the right decision by killing Iranian general Qassem Soleimaini.
“He was a brutal terrorist that killed more than 600 American, thousands of Iranians, thousands of Iraqis and through Hezbollah in Lebanon, killed Israelis,” she said. “I was dancing in the streets of Minneapolis when we got the news and I went live on Twitter to thank whoever did it because it was the right thing to do. Iran is plotting attacks against Americans in Iraq on a daily basis.”
As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, al-Aqidi said as long as the militant political groups Fatah and Hamas control the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Palestinians do not have much hope for peace.
“Enough is enough. Enough terrorism. Enough of Hamas,” al-Aqidi said. “I feel bad for the Palestinian people because they are held hostage by Fatah and Hamas. They have no say in anything.”
She adds that Israel is America’s top ally in the Middle East and that Arab nations like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are trying to prevent Iranian-backed terrorism from spreading across the region.
“When I get elected, one of my top priorities will be designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group,” she said. “I think that it is a must to act now.”
She also wants to know why Ilhan Omar met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, before being elected to congress.
For more information on Dalia al-Aqidi’s run for Congress, click here.