More than a thousand people jammed into Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park to hear from candidates in the Democratic stronghold of the 5th Congressional District. It’s an open seat with Congressman Keith Ellison moving to the Minnesota Attorney General’s race.

It could be the best-attended event of the entire campaign season. Admission was free and open, but security was tight with protesters outside the event addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mary Lahammer moderates a debate

I grew up nearby in the district and have covered all the leading candidates closely in their years in the legislature. It was one of the most difficult and fascinating events I’ve moderated in more than 20 years of political reporting. The crowd was huge. The emotions ran high. Former speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher broke into tears when she talked about the 2012 shooting at a business in her neighborhood, declaring “No one should go through that sort of violence ever.”

Current State Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-Minneapolis) is Muslim and looking out in a crowd containing many members of the Jewish community she said anti-Semitism is alive and well “we are strong together and people recognize in unity we can have the kind of strength we need to push back.”

A large crowd at a congressional debate

The district has been held by a Democrat since 1962, most of the candidates said they’d vote to impeach President Donald Trump. Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis) added she has “served in office in some of the most difficult and polarizing times in this nation.”

The Primary Election is Tuesday August 14th. The forum was co-sponsored by Jewish Community Action, Jewish Community Relations Council, National Council of Jewish Women and Minnesota and Jewfolk Inc.