On this primary election day in Minnesota, some people in the 5th Congressional District have been receiving text messages in support of Antone Melton-Meaux, the leading challenger to DFL U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.
The texts telling people how to vote in the Democratic primary... sure don't seem aimed at Democrats.
"VOTE HERE or ILHAN OMAR WINS," reads a bold-letter message at the top, with an arrow pointing to a sample primary ballot -- one tellingly labeled a "Democrat Primary" -- where the oval next to Melton-Meaux's name is filled-in.
The set-up is virtually identical to one seen in recent mail pieces sent in the district, which urged people to "vote in the Democratic primary only," and for Melton-Meaux, further explaining that a vote in the Republican primary is a "vote to support Ilhan Omar."
Those mail pieces were sent out by a nasty little political action committee called (wait for it) the "Alliance to Combat Extremism," which has spent about $15,000 against Omar's reelection.
On Sunday, Melton-Meaux tweeted a denouncement of the lit pieces.
We've recently learned that Alliance to Combat Extremism sent out mailers in our district. We unequivocally condemn this group and their hatred. They do not represent us in any way.— Antone Melton-Meaux (@Antone_MN) August 9, 2020
Given the copied messaging, let's take a wild guess and assume the Alliance to Combat Extremism is also behind these texts, which appeal to voters who have only a few issues: they hate Ilhan Omar, they love America, and they REALLY love things written in all caps.
Look at this jingoistic, Islamaphobic crap being texted out on behalf of @Antone_MN. I wonder who they’re targeting—the language is so gross it seems like they might be encouraging Republicans to vote in the Democratic primary. Which, despicable. (I’ve already voted @IlhanMN) pic.twitter.com/a6IJrwn0Jw— Mike Spangenberg (@MikeSpangenberg) August 11, 2020
“Patriots,” eh? Who’s pulling the strings here? pic.twitter.com/S1eIuJwUIR— Steve McPherson (@steventurous) August 11, 2020
Asked about the texts mid-morning on Tuesday, Melton-Meaux's spokesperson said the campain wasn't aware of any such texts.
Then the response took a strange turn.
"These text messages--if they really do exist and are not part of Rep. Ilhan Omar's last ditch effort to smear Antone Melton-Meaux's name in order to revive her failing campaign on Election Day--are not and have never been part of our marketing communications strategy."
(For the record, the Omar campaign categorically denied the suggestion it was involved in the texts, and called the assertion "ridiculous.")
Melton-Meaux spokesman Lee Hayes went on to point out that the candidate's father was a Vietnam War veteran, and that the campaign "would never stoop to such divisive and xenophobic tactics."
Soon after, apparently better informed about the texts, Melton-Meaux tweeted -- for the second time in three days -- to distance the campaign from anti-Ilhan messaging aimed at conservatives.
We’ve just received reports of a text campaign urging voters to support Antone for Congress. The Antone for Congress campaign is NOT conducting a text campaign and disavows the dog-whistle racism in the messages.— Antone Melton-Meaux (@Antone_MN) August 11, 2020