Primary Challenger Says Rep. Betty McCollum Isn’t Progressive Enough

Betty McCollum has established a progressive political track record throughout the course of her 22 years in Congress.

Along with other initiatives that advance the interests of low-income individuals who depend on government assistance, the St. Paul Democrat has fought for women’s rights, fought against climate change, and supported universal health care and environmental preservation.

Progressive Punch, a neutral organization that assesses congressional voting records, gave her a “progressive” grade of 91%.

Amane Badhasso, though, feels that McCollum isn’t progressive enough. For the 4th Congressional District seat, the 32-year-old community activist and Ethiopian immigrant is challenging the congresswoman in the DFL primary on August 9. As of April 1, she had raised more than $600,000 for her campaign, and by the end of June, she wanted to surpass $800,000.

By March 31st, McCollum had raised $1.3 million.

Badhasso has raised a lot of money, making her McCollum’s best-funded opponent to yet. Oromo immigrants from all across the country have given a sizable amount of money to her campaign, sometimes in the form of gifts of $1,000 or more.

In a recent interview, Badhasso stated, “I am running for Congress because I believe we need a congressman who will fight for working people, not special interests.” “I’m eager to bring progressive principles to Washington and challenge the established quo.”

McCollum is a key figure in the Democratic majority in the House. She is a strong friend of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and serves as chair of the military panel for the appropriations subcommittee, which recently put together a $762 billion budget plan for the Pentagon.

McCollum said that she successfully rejected the defense establishment’s requests for additional spending as she worked to protect President Joe Biden’s budget restrictions. “I didn’t get everything I wanted, but at least I’m a voice at the table,” she said.

McCollum is effective at what she does, and Badhasso doesn’t dispute that, but she claims the incumbent spends too much time and effort on insider deals in Washington and too little on enhancing the lives of her working-class people.

When Badhasso was 4 years old, her family and her escaped a civil conflict in their Ethiopian village for a refugee camp in Kenya. At age 13, she immigrated to the country with a brother, ending up in Blaine where she lived with an uncle and her grandmother, who later took on the role of guardian.

She and her family belonged to the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, the Oromo, and they spent a lot of time at the community center for that group in St. Paul. She recounted, “I had to wait in the van when we initially drove there because I was freaking out. “I anticipated seeing the troops and hearing gunfire.

“However, that is not the case here. My eyes were awakened to the realization that I could march, protest, and think here without fear of being shot.

Her life’s work as a community organizer pushing for change on issues of education, economics, the environment, racial equity, and social justice was inspired by that experience, which motivated her to begin organizing young leadership programs and other immigrant services.

Badhasso worked as a volunteer for local, state, and federal Democratic politicians while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science at Hamline University, including the 2020 DFL-coordinated campaign for Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and the rest of the party’s state ticket.

She claimed that her personal experiences of living paycheck to paycheck and occasionally going without food, combined with her political acumen, had prepared her to advocate for the most vulnerable residents of the 4th District, which comprises the majority of Ramsey and a portion of Washington counties.

In contrast, McCollum, 67, is one of the region’s most enduring political figures. In a district where a Republican hasn’t been elected in 74 years, the incumbent who has served for 11 terms routinely wins by 2-1 percentages.

She was born and raised in South St. Paul, brought up her two kids in North St. Paul, and currently resides in St. Paul. Prior to running for government, the St. Catherine University alumna worked as a high school teacher and retail sales manager. She was originally chosen to serve on the North St. Paul City Council in 1987, and from 1993 until her first election to Congress in 2000, she was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

She is currently the dean of the congressional delegation for Minnesota after being just the second woman to be elected to Congress from the state. She has been a significant supporter of education, a strong national defense, and worldwide participation in development and human rights in addition to her efforts on behalf of progressive causes.

McCollum and Badhasso do not hold opposing ideologies. They both proudly display the progressive badge.

David Schultz, a political scientist at Hamline University who personally knows both candidates, suggested that rather than having different political ideologies, the two may be divided by generational differences.

According to him, McCallum is more of a traditional DFL liberal who is involved with unions and concerns of economic and social justice. Many of the same problems are supported by Badhasso, who is, however, rather dissatisfied by the sluggish rate of development in areas like civil rights, the environment, health care, and (other) difficulties.

According to Schultz, just around 30 of the 435 congressional seats are up for grabs, so conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are moving their parties further to the right and left, respectively.

He stated, “We are also witnessing a generational transition in American politics. Baby Boomers lost their status as the largest generational voting group in 2020, with Gen Z and Millennials taking their place. With regard to a variety of concerns, the later two are more progressive. The Democratic Party is becoming more divided as a result. We’ll see more prosperous opponents in the future.

I’ve never had so many outrageous personal assaults made against me, according to McCollum, who said that this year’s race is different from her prior ones. Most of them lack foundation and make no sense.

For instance, Badhasso accused McCollum in a video released on social media in May of being “quiet on racial justice” following the death of George Floyd. The congresswoman’s office replied with a collection of 28 press statements, tweets, and a House floor speech from McCollum lamenting Floyd’s passing.

She stated, “I have never remained silent on issues of racial justice or the death of George Floyd.

McCollum declined to accept to be the bill’s sponsor when two other members of Congress unveiled a plan this spring to end defense contractor price gouging. She did, in fact, co-sponsor the legislation.

Badhasso said that the $2 million in federal dollars McCollum received this spring to improve the radio system for the St. Paul Police Department should have been better used for racial justice, schools, climate-friendly infrastructure, and police brutality prevention. According to McCollum’s campaign team, her opponent’s platform was in line with her community organizing efforts to defund the Minneapolis police.

The congresswoman said that her opponent had similarly distorted her stances on two other significant topics throughout the election campaign.

McCollum, according to Badhasso, would not support a “Medicare for All” resolution being pushed by progressives in Congress. Since the original proposal called for unacceptably drastic changes to health programs for veterans and American Indians, McCollum said that she first decided against joining. McCollum said that when the sponsors changed those two clauses, she passionately supported the proposal for universal health care and made it the main topic of a campaign brochure.

The two contenders disagree on how to advance a “Green New Deal” as well. In order to combat the climate catastrophe, McCollum claimed she is in favor of “spending billions in renewable energy… to generate new high-tech, green employment.” In addition to supporting such measures, Badhasso asserted that she would spearhead the effort to approve them, something she claims McCollum has failed to accomplish.

When McCollum received a 2-1 endorsement for reelection at the 4th District DFL convention in May, Badhasso’s candidacy suffered a blow. According to state DFL Chairman Ken Martin, the incumbent will now benefit from the party’s phone banks, digital messaging, sample ballots, and coordinated campaigning with the party’s other candidates.

With the help of more than 200 volunteers, Badhasso said she intends to use a grassroots movement to make up for the closure of the DFL’s activities.

Fasil Moghul will also be on the DFL primary ballot next month.

On the Republican side, Jerry Silver and Gene Rechtzigel are up against May Lor Xiong, a teacher and Hmong-American immigrant who has received the party’s endorsement.

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