Army veteran, Congressional candidate to challenge Rep. Ilhan Omar

Phil Briggs
August 23, 2019 - 8:51 am
Congressional candidate and Army veteran Chris Kelly and Rep Ilhan Omar

Kelly / J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press


There has been an ongoing war of words between Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and President Trump. 

But after a week that included Israel barring Rep. Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) from entering the country and a press conference focused on Israel and Palestine, Chris Kelley (I),  an Iraq war veteran running against Omar in 2020, has had enough.

Rep Ilhan Omar speaks at a press conference with Rep Rashida Tlaib
J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

“She’s like an absentee landlord,” explained Kelley. “She holds the title, but she’s not focusing on the district. And a lot of people are noticing this.”

Kelley, a decorated Army Intelligence Analyst, and a current Minneapolis police officer says he hears about it from people in the neighborhoods he patrols.  “We have a large Somali community and in my daily duties as a police officer we come into contact quite a bit …they have told me that don’t like her being in the news to this degree, they don’t want the attention.  They just want her to keep her head down and do her job, and not worry about the President and what’s outside of Minnesota.”

Chris Kelly is running for Congress against Rep Ilhan Omar

Kelley explained that he respects her right to fight for causes, but feels she has been taking it too far, “To cause controversy practically every day and ignore your district? That’s unacceptable. The people of Minnesota did not elect her to be grandstanding and fight with the President.”

Army veteran Chris Kelly was deployed once during Operation Desert Storm and twice during Operation Iraqi Freedom

Kelley also shared how his military experience has shaped his leadership style, “I’m a chain of command guy, so a lot of this is like, 'OK, you’re a freshman, Congresswoman, just be quiet, do your thing, do your job and represent the people that elected you.'  But, again it seems to be more important for her to make a stink and make headlines. So, that’s unfortunate and the people of Minnesota are losing.” 

According to his campaign website, Kelley said his decision to challenge  Rep. Omar came after her controversial use of the phrase 'some people did something' in reference to the 9/11 attacks during a speech at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) banquet in California.

"To see the victims, the first responders, our country as a whole disrespected, disregarded, and trivialized by someone who is now benefitting from being an American is morally reprehensible. I have spent my entire adult life in public service; I know it, I feel it, I live it every day," said Kelley.  

The Independent candidate explained how he thinks his philosophy differs from many of those currently in Congress, "I do lean conservative, but you have to have the ability to look at things from the middle.  It's kinda the Minnesota way, it's just sensible ... all I can say is both sides have been stagnant and I really believe there is an inability to work together ... they're digging their heels in to prove their point.  So I want to come in, take in this information and try to get some good legislation done."

Among the issues, Kelley would like to work on are; veterans affairs, mental health services, gun legislation, and immigration. 

"We do need a secure border, and I totally agree with the President on this.  As the Democrats are pushing for this open border, it's really ridiculous," explained Kelley.  "Look at other aspects, not just controlling immigration, but what about human trafficking, terrorism, and narcotics trafficking? With a porous border like we have, it's only hurting us."  

Kelley was quick to point out that he believes the failure to find answers to the border issue has crossed party lines. "Talk about stagnation, Congress failed.  It seems like certain Congressmen are blaming the border patrol for the conditions, yet they're unwilling to fund it. And both sides are guilty of this.  It's actually been a disgrace."  

Beyond the issues, Kelley also shared how his campaign has drawn inspiration from the heavy metal anthem "You got another thing coming" by Judas Priest. "Man can you imagine if we had Judas Preist warming up the crowd, that would be a great intro!" But the message in the hard-charging rock classic is very similar to how Kelley views this race, "I tell ya what, she doesn't have a lock ...  I know she won last time by about 70 points, but that's mainly because the GOP ignored this district. So if she thinks it's going to be easy, it's not.  And that's not just because of me, but because a lot of people are upset with her.  So it's going to be a good fight."

We reached out to Rep. Omar's office for comment but did not hear back. 

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