MINNEAPOLIS, March 9, 2021–Today, former Minneapolis City Council Member and Minneapolis Public Schools Board Director Don Samuels announced his campaign for Congress with a growing coalition of supporters, including former state Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party Chair Brian Melendez and former Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. The longtime community leader will challenge incumbent Rep. Ilhan Omar in August’s DFL primary.
“The stakes have never been higher. Our city, our nation, and our world are threatened by devastating economic disparities, the catastrophic effects of climate change, and a sustained attack on democracy here at home and abroad. While Rep. Omar and I share similar views on many issues, I believe this moment calls for a different approach to leadership–one that seeks to build a united coalition able to achieve greater progress for everyone,” said Samuels.
Born and raised in a poor area of Kingston, Jamaica, Samuels made a lifelong pledge to always live in low-income communities after graduating from the Pratt Institute’s School of Design in New York. Through organizing block clubs in his North Minneapolis neighborhood, Don was able to bring the city’s focus to the public safety concerns and economic struggles of his neighbors, including creating the PEACE Foundation in 2003, the same year he was first elected to the City Council.
Having met Samuels at the time of his City Council run, former Minnesota DFL State Party Chair Brian Melendez said, “For almost two decades I have admired Don’s career in public service, his commitment to progressive values, and his personal integrity. Even in our divided times, change remains possible — with the right leadership. I support Don for Congress because, in order to make our communities safer, to strengthen our democracy, to expand opportunity for everyone, and to hold the line against extremism, we need strong leaders who can work together with President Biden in order to create sustainable progress
Key differences between Samuels and Rep. Omar include support for President Biden’s signature infrastructure legislation, as well as the issue of public safety. While political infighting led Rep. Omar to be one of six Congressional Democrats to vote against the President’s bill, Samuels believes Democrats must do a better job working together in the face of Republican intransigence.
“Too many D.C. politicians find their success through the division and purity politics that have defined our era, and, unfortunately in this case, Rep. Omar’s position was quite literally ‘my way or the highway,’ a position that fails to recognize the tremendous infrastructural needs of our community,” said Samuels.
On public safety, the candidates differ on defunding the police. Samuels favors an approach that embraces both justice and accountability. He also supports federal legislation including the George Floyd Act and Rep. Omar’s bill to limit the use of no-knock warrants.
In his work on the City Council, Samuels was a key initiator of Minneapolis’s “Ban the Box,” a model for the state law that followed. In his role as CEO of MicroGrants, he also created the “Lights On” program with the blessing of Philando Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, which allowed police to issue repair vouchers in place of tickets for vehicle equipment violations.
“While Rep. Omar described ‘defund the police’ as a ‘policy demand,’ I share the view of Democrats like former President Barack Obama who believe the slogan created unnecessary alienation at a time when progress on police accountability was most needed. Unfortunately, my opponent’s rigid ideology extended even to Capitol safety, where she was one of only three Democrats to join House Republicans in voting against a bill to increase funding for security in the wake of the Jan. 6th insurrection attempt,” said Samuels.
An outspoken critic of the unsuccessful referendum effort to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department, Samuels worked with his Northside neighbors to successfully sue the city of Minneapolis to ensure it maintained adequate police staffing. Given his long standing work to improve public safety across the city, Minneapolis’s recently retired police chief, Medaria Arradondo–the first black chief in city history–offered his endorsement.
“I’ve had the honor of working with Don for over two decades, as chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, as a member of my Advisory Council, and the Citizens Response Team. Don is a visionary and pragmatic leader with a proven track record of building diverse coalitions to solve some of our city’s most challenging issues, which is why I overwhelmingly support his campaign for Congress. I’m confident Don will work hard every day for the people he represents,” said Arradondo.
When he’s not engaged in public life, Don enjoys gardening, bicycling, spending time with his wife, Sondra, and traveling to see his four adult children spread throughout the country.
Additional endorsements, issue positions, and a formal campaign launch will be announced in the weeks ahead. For more information and regular updates, visit www.donsamuels.com.