Samuels, Omar spar over public safety

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Former Minneapolis City Council and former Minneapolis School Board member Don Samuels likes to talk about a wide variety of issues, but voters he talks to usually have one main issue on their mind.

“I knock on the door, first thing I say is hi, I’m Don Samuels, I’m running for Congress. What is your number one issue? They say, ‘public safety, public safety, public safety.’”

Samuels says he thinks that issue gives him a chance for an upset victory over Democratic incumbent Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who was among the leading proponents of the “defund the police” movement.

Several local supporters of Omar defended her record at a news conference Monday afternoon.

“I have long heard Congresswoman Omar advocate for a more holistic and balanced approach to public safety that includes community engagement,” said Robert Lilligren, a former Minneapolis City Council member who served on the council with Samuels.

Lilligren was joined by other former city council members and school teachers who support Omar. Omar did not attend the news conference.

Samuels says he’s encouraged by demographics of those who had cast early votes as of last week. He says the majority are older voters who tend to be most concerned about public safety. However, as of Friday only 108,000 early votes had been cast. In 2020, more than 543,000 votes were cast early.

Secretary of State Steve Simons says the high early and absentee voting turnout in 2020 was largely driven by the pandemic.

“We have the vaccine, we have different protocols,” he said. “I suspect, my gut tells me, it’s mostly a different place with COVID. We’re not going to see as many people want to vote from home.”

The polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday and close at 8 p.m.