HOLD HOLD Drazkowski's mission: To hold Rep. Ilhan Omar to account
It's the off-season for most state legislators, but that can't be said for state Rep. Steve Drazkowski.
Drazkowski, a Mazeppa Republican, has been busy this summer intensifying a solitary campaign to bring Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar to account for what he considers her misdeeds, both legal and ethical.
"The people have the right to know if their congresswoman is a crook," Drazkowski said during a press conference earlier this summer.
In July, Drazkowski petitioned a U.S. House committee to investigate Omar, arguing that Minnesota's —and the country's, — first Somali-American congresswoman has refused to come clean about her marriages and tax returns.
That was followed by the unveiling of his website, omartruth.com, which allows people to sign a petition demanding an investigation. So far, more than 43,000 people have.
Those salvos came after a campaign finance probe, spurred by a complaint by Drazkowski, found that Omar misused campaign funds in violation of state rules.
It also showed that she had filed joint tax returns with her husband before they were legally married and at a time when she was married to another man.
And although allegations persist that Omar married her brother as part of an immigration scheme, they so far remain unproven. But Drazkowski believes them to be true — and that he has been vindicated in some measure.
"I can tell you that the political climate is changing on the issue," Drazkowski said.
There was no response to a request to Omar's Washington office for an interview or a statement.
Drazkowski began his campaign against Omar when she was a first-term state legislator, well before she became a political lighting rod that President Trump has sought to exploit. And Drazkowski has continued his campaign against Omar since her election to the U.S. Congress in 2018.
"I don't have a lot of tolerance for those who repeatedly break the laws," Drazkowski said when asked about his motivation for taking on Omar. "If you are law-making and you are violating the laws of the land, you only undermine the importance and meaning of those laws."
It's an uncommon sight: One politician from a different district, now a different legislative body, pursuing another politician so zealously. The starkness is underscored by other differences: Drazkowski is white, male, rural, Republican and Christian. Omar is black, female, urban, Democratic and Muslim.
These are irrelevant as far as Drazkowski is concerned. What stands out for him is how slow Minnesota media has been, at least until recently, to ask questions about Omar's past and what he believes to be her serial misrepresentations. And if Omar has nothing to hide, why all the secrecy?
"Up until now, the Minnesota media has been reluctant to even do much, and it really took shaming of them by the national media for them to act," he said.
He said the same climate that made state media reluctant to examine Omar's past has sidelined other legislators afraid to take a stand on the allegations he has made against her.
"A year ago, to make the suggestions I did about a Somali-American refugee woman — I'm not going to be tooting my own horn while I do this, but it takes courage to do. And the Legislature is not a bastion of courage," he said.
Attitudes towards Drazkowski's attacks on Omar depend largely on political affiliation.
State Rep. Tina Liebling, a Rochester Democrat and DFL House caucus leader, sees Drazkowski's attacks in a broader context. Today, the country is led by a president who is practicing the politics of division. And part of that politics is to target people who practice the Muslim religion.
"I just view this as part of an attempt on his part to raise his profile nationally," Liebling said. "And it's probably working, because he's sort of going off her raised profile."
An area Republican, state Rep. Greg Davids, applauded Drazkowski's efforts. He said that if anyone else had filed joint tax returns with a spouse years before they were legally married, "what would happen to me? What would happen to you?"
"I think we're charting new territory here, and I think Rep. Drazkowski is a good one to lead the charge," Davids said.
There is little doubt that Drazkowski's profile has risen nationally as a result of his efforts against Omar. He has been on FoxNews repeatedly, both on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" and "The Ingraham Angle." Drazkowski said he has been encouraged by people to seek office at the federal level, but he doesn't have any plans to do so.
Drazkowski vehemently denies that cultural or racial factors or racism has had anything to do with his efforts to hold Omar to account.
Throughout, he says, he has been focused on "behaviors and laws and ethics." To even ask that question in the absence of any evidence suggesting such motivation stokes the kind of fear that makes it difficult to raise legitimate questions, he said.
During a town hall meeting in St. Charles last month, the subject was discussed for about 15 minutes of a 90-minute meeting.
Except for a couple of complaints, Drazkowski said constituents in his district, which he has won seven times, have "overwhelmingly" approved of his efforts. He estimated receiving probably more than 100 comments from constituents who "were very happy that I was doing this."
"There's this Ilhan Omar-Donald Trump kind of competition, if you will, in the public eye right now. So there's a huge partisan flair to that," Drazkowski said. "Certainly, that wasn't the case a year and a month ago, when I started this. And it wasn't the case, because she wasn't even a member of Congress then."