The good news for me with this post is, I already kind of did the homework on this one back in February when Don Samuels first started exploring a run.
On the Democratic primary ballot:
Ilhan Omar (incumbent)
I initially thought he had no website, but one of my Twitter followers found it! It … doesn’t really help much. He likes football metaphors, is susceptible to scams, and expresses some really gross nativist bullshit on his blog. He does at least appear to be a Democrat.
AJ Kern is a “Conservative Christian” and right-wing asshole who wants “standing” to question Ilhan Omar’s citizenship. Did you know that when you sign an Affidavit of Candidacy to file as a party candidate in a major party, you affirm, among other things, “I either participated in the party’s most recent precinct caucuses or intend to vote for a majority of that party’s candidates at the next general election.” When you sign in at a caucus you affirm that you are broadly in agreement with the principles of the party. What I’m saying is, AJ Kern blatantly perjured herself, and I know it’s not worth anyone’s time to pursue it, but it’s garbage she’s even on here. Oh, she’s challenging Don Samuels’ citizenship, too. What a profoundly toxic asshole (and liar).
Albert Ross has an unreadable, largely content-free website. (“Driven by making an impact and inspiring change, our Political Movement is always expanding our understanding of contemporary issues and developing our campaign to push for positive solutions. Learn more about our focus below.” Narrator voice: there’s nothing below this.) He does at least appear to be a Democrat.
I was talking to a St. Paul friend about this race and summed up Don as a buffoon with a body count.
In 2005, he explained that his family (he’s from Jamaica) had a leg up on everyone else because they were descended from house slaves rather than field slaves. (“The reason that my family got a leg up on the people in our village in Jamaica is that we were in the big house. We saw homework done. They saw books read. They saw the piano lessons. And that’s why my wife and I say, ‘we want our house to be the big house on our block.’ And we’re going to open it up to every kid on our block.”)
ETA: he also sat for an interview with the late Sarah Janacek and in his discussion of Katrina’s aftermath he said the following: “Those were dark faces on those women, almost bizarrely unblended. They looked like they were from Haiti or Africa. This is part of the unspoken evolution of race. We cannot seem to talk about the reality that lighter- skinned black people are more likely to escape poverty.” The “unspoken evolution” line made me flinch because I don’t think he was just talking here about the damage done by colorism, especially given his comments (that came at the same time as that “big house” line) about being descended from mixed-race people. (That line is making me cringe so hard I’m just going to link, not quote, but I’m going to say, I find it kind of shocking that the 2013 mayoral profile that I linked earlier excises that line?)
In 2007, while a City Council member, he said that he thought North High should be burned down. Worth noting that this hyperbole was part of a push for vouchers.
In 2012, he had an op-ed published in which he described confronting someone for public urination, who then stole Don’s phone, only Don used the Find my IPhone feature plus the services of the cops to retrieve it and have the thief arrested, at which point he delivered a long lecture to the thief. (Two notes about this. First, I have known a ton of people who’ve had Apple products stolen, have known exactly where they are thanks to Find My iPhone, and usually have had zero luck getting cops to help them get their devices back. Second, there are multiple spots in this story that had a distinct “AND THEN EVERYONE CLAPPED” vibe.)
Don was a Vikings stadium supporter and after voting to approve it in 2013 (overriding the law that was supposed to require a municipal referendum) he had this comment about being surprised to be handed “an envelope with … a couple grand” from trade unions. This was at least less corrupt than his giddy comments made it sound. Overriding the will of the people to build a giant sports palace was, and remains, bullshit.
In 2014, he called the cops on a hot dog giveaway being run by a neighborhood organization trying to encourage people to vote. He said he thought they were selling the hot dogs illegally. They had a large sign saying “Free Hot Dogs” and were doing this right outside their organization’s office, which Don had been to. (There’s a video of the conversation between the organizers and the cop that includes the cop saying in a slightly confused tone, “I’m here … for the grilling of the food,” which clarifies that Don literally called 911 over this.) (In 2021, he claimed in a Facebook thread about this that there had been repeated grilling incidents and it was a fire hazard.)
Last year, he endorsed Mickey Moore and only retracted his endorsement because it turned out Mickey didn’t live in the district. He also went driving around in his underwear to pursue a guy who was rifling his car for change. And having sued in 2020 to force Minneapolis to hire more police, he sued in 2021 to have the public safety charter amendment tossed off the ballot. This was in cooperation with the (right-wing) Center for the American Experiment; additional friendly ties to CAE are documented here (or see this Twitter thread).
All of this buffoonery pales next to the incident where he and his wife took some neighborhood kids on an outing and let everyone go wading in the Mississippi River. Don can’t swim. When two of the little boys lost their footing and were pulled away by the current, Don’s wife Sondra was the only one who could go after them, and one of the children drowned. This happened in the summer of 2020 and was a heartbreaking, awful accident.
Which Don joked about earlier this year. (In response to someone talking about the incident and the incredible hubris involved in running for office a a year and a half after a child died because of your poor judgment, Don tweeted, “Can’t swim but can govern.”)
When I first saw that tweet, I honestly just assumed that “donsamuels49” was a satirical troll with extremely bad taste. I was absolutely flabbergasted to find out this was actually Don joking about the death of a child who was in his care.
At this point, you probably know whether or not you like Ilhan Omar. Or maybe it varies by week. (There are definitely weeks I am annoyed at her but this week I’m a fan.)
I would absolutely without hesitation vote for her in this race!
On the Republican side there are three people running:
Cicely Davis (GOP endorsed)
Guy T Gaskin
It literally does not matter which of these people you vote for because none of them have any chance, at all, of winning, and they’re all awful. I guess the fact that Royce White’s website uses the term “globalist” (an antisemitic dogwhistle) in practically every sentence makes him extra awful, so if you’re voting in this race for some reason, go with Cicely Davis.
Post-primary, be sure to tell your Republican family members in other states how extremely worried everyone here is about Ilhan losing, so they send their money to her opponent rather than Republicans running in actual swing districts.
In addition to writing political commentary, I write science fiction and fantasy. My book that came out in April 2021, Chaos on CatNet, takes place in a future Minneapolis. It’s a sequel to Catfishing on CatNet and signed copies of both books are usually available from Dreamhaven. You will also be able to get them from Uncle Hugo’s when it reopens at 2716 E 31st St! (and maybe by mail order now? I’m not sure how much mail order Don is doing while getting ready to re-open.)
I do not have a Patreon or Ko-Fi, but you can make a donation to encourage my work! I get a lot of satisfaction watching fundraisers I highlight getting funded (or, in the case of the Movement Voter fundraiser, continuing to raise money past their goal). I explained back in May why I’m fundraising for the Movement Voter PAC and that fundraiser is still active. (Also, I owe some embarrassing readings of my juvenalia to the Internet.)
I also went looking and found two DonorsChoose fundraisers for classrooms at Bethune Community School in North Minneapolis: math manipulatives for pre-K students (this is such a good idea) and a nice book organizer for a first-grade classroom where the shelving is coming apart.