Minnesota voter guide: Where the 5th District candidates stand on the issues

Ilhan Omar and Jennifer Zielinski
Ilhan Omar and Jennifer Zielinski, a Democrat and Republican, respectively, are running for Congress in Minnesota's 5th District.
Omar by Tim Nelson, MPR News | Zielinski courtesy of the campaign

State Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, and Republican activist Jennifer Zielinski are after the open seat in Congress now that Keith Ellison has decided to step down and run for Minnesota attorney general.

The 5th District is very blue and hasn't elected a Republican since 1962. Ellison held the seat for four terms.

The district includes Minneapolis and its suburbs to the west and north.

Both Omar and Zielinski are making their first attempts at the open seat. Here's where they stand on the major issues this midterm election:

On President Trump

Omar: She opposes Trump and once called him #RacistInChief on Twitter.

Zielinski: She has supported some of the president's policies, but said she won't be a "rubber stamp" for Trump.

Gun control

Omar: Omar wants to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and she supports universal background checks and increased mental health services.

Zielinski: Zielinski told the Star Tribune she supports current gun laws.

Health care

Omar: She says she supports a "Medicare for All, single-payer health care system to guarantee quality healthcare for all Americans." Omar also wants to crack down on pharmaceutical companies by shortening prescription drugs' patent life, requiring drug pricing transparency, as well as allowing prescription drugs to be imported from Canada and letting Medicare negotiate drug prices.

Zielinski: She wants to "fix the problems with affordability and effectiveness" of health care, but told the Star Tribune she wouldn't vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act unless there was a better plan to take its place.

K-12 education priorities

Omar: Omar supports federal funds for universal pre-K programs nationwide and affordable child care for "working families" with kids under 13 years old.

Zielinski: Zielinski wants to ensure public funding on education "is going to impact our kids in the classroom not growing administrative budgets." She says people should have "true choice" in education.

Higher education

Omar: Omar wants tuition- and debt-free education for all students at two- and four-year public institutions. She also wants to "cancel" existing student loan debt.

Zielinski: The candidate appears to have no public position. MPR News has reached out for comment.


Omar: Omar wants to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), create a pathway to legal status for all undocumented people and Dreamers, and expand the refugee and asylum-seeker program.

Zielinski: Zielinski supports "enforcing the laws on the books."


Omar: Omar says all women should have "access to a safe, affordable abortion."

Zielinski: The candidate appears to have no public position. MPR News has reached out for comment.

Jobs and the economy

Omar: Omar wants to raise the U.S. minimum wage to $15 an hour and pass stronger wage theft laws. She wants the government to help fund worker-owned cooperatives and a federal jobs guarantee program. Omar also wants to reinstate the law separating commercial and investment banking while breaking up "too-big-to-fail" banks.

Zielinski: She supports the current economic policy led by Republicans: "Americans' 401Ks are going up, we have more take home pay, consumer confidence is up ... I say things are going well."

Climate change

Omar: She supports legislation to make the U.S. use all renewable energy by 2035. She also says people most affected by climate change "must be centered in our policies: communities of color and Indigenous populations, along with workers who would be out of employment from a divestment from the fossil fuel industry."

Zielinski: "I believe in climate has the ability to change as it has done since the earth was formed, but the U.S. should not rejoin Paris climate accords," she told WCCO.

Copper-nickel mining

Omar: She opposes the PolyMet and Twin Metals proposed copper-nickel mining plans.

Zielinski: The candidate appears to have no public position. MPR News has reached out for comment.

Taxes and government spending

Omar: Omar wants to repeal Republican tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and raise their taxes instead. She also wants to repeal tax breaks for fossil-fuel companies and increase the estate tax. Among the programs she wants the government to fund more is the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund. She wants to cut funding for the military.

Zielinski: Zielinski supports the Republican tax plan and wants to keep taxes low. "When you put more money in people's paychecks and allow our businesses to invest more in their business instead of paying higher taxes, everyone wins."


Omar: Omar wants recreational marijuana for the entire U.S. and to expunge records of people convicted of cannabis-related offenses.

Zielinski: She wants to "allow states to legalize and decriminalize" marijuana.

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