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A Minneapolis attorney who recently won a murder case dismissal and has served time as a repeat felony drug offender is the first Democrat to launch a 2024 challenge to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Sarah Gad, 36, filed with the Federal Election Commission last month. Gad's campaign website was not operational Tuesday morning, but her entry into the race marks the start of what could be another busy election cycle for Omar, who narrowly overcame a primary challenge last year on her way to winning a third term representing the deep blue Fifth District.

"If I was thrilled with what Ilhan Omar was doing, I would not be running for Congress," said Gad, a Minnesota native who is Muslim. She said that her parents are immigrants from Egypt, and that she earned her license to practice law in Minnesota last summer.

Other DFL contenders could also challenge Omar, the first Somali American and one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress. But unseating an incumbent is a difficult task. After overcoming other DFL challengers in her past two elections, Omar has shown an ability to win her seat despite well-financed challengers.

"Rep. Omar is proud of her record of delivering over $40 million dollars in funding for the 5th District, passing the boldest climate legislation in history and leading the fight against Republicans attacks on abortion rights and democracy itself," Omar campaign spokesman Jeremy Slevin said in a text message. "She looks forward to continuing that model of cogovernance to serve her constituents in Congress."

Gad ran for Congress in Illinois in 2020 during a longshot attempt to unseat then-longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush. In a four-way Democratic primary, Gad finished a distant second with around 10 percent of the vote while Rush easily won with around 71 percent, according to election results.

"I didn't actually think that I had a shot at beating Bobby Rush," Gad said. "I just wanted to make some noise about some issues that I was passionate about," which include "criminal justice reform issues, the criminalization of addiction, homelessness, educational disparities."

Gad took on her first murder case in May and charges against her client were dismissed by Hennepin County prosecutors over a lack of evidence last month. The defendant was released from jail after seven months in custody.

In 2012, she was enrolled in medical school when she got into a car crash and was prescribed pain medication. A resulting opioid addiction landed her in jail for the first time in Chicago in 2013 and she was a revolving-door offender through 2015, charged with forging prescriptions in Pennsylvania and possessing controlled substances in Minnesota.

She won a $380,000 settlement after suing the Cook County jail for sexual assault. Attorney Kathleen Zellner, who had represented Steven Avery, the subject of the hit Netflix documentary "Making a Murderer," took her case and gave Gad a job. The settlement helped Gad pay for law school, which she attended with an ankle monitor, graduating in 2020 from the University of Chicago.

"My story, my history, really resonates with people," Gad said. "It allows me to connect with them on a deeper level and understand the day to day issues that everyday constituents are facing."

Other challengers could enter the race. Former Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels, who challenged Omar in the 2022 primary and nearly defeated her, is mulling a rematch.

Samuels is "speaking with supporters and other potential candidates and weighing the best course forward," Joe Radinovich, Samuels' former campaign manager, said in a statement.

"It's clear many Democratic primary voters want to send someone to Washington who is focused on working with other leaders in government to make a difference, not just to make a point," Radinovich said.

The news outlet Jewish Insider also reported recently that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, is looking at the race. Omar has clashed with the group, which has also gone after Omar during the Democrat's time in office. Citing an unnamed source, a reporter for Jewish Insider wrote that after an AIPAC-funded political committee put major money toward the Democratic primary effort to oust Omar last year, there have been talks with Minneapolis City Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw about the race.

"Since winning her first primary, Rep. Omar has won every other primary and enjoys the support of her constituents," Slevin said in his text message. "AIPAC recruiting candidates who don't run to serve the Fifth but further AIPAC's agenda will not change that."

Vetaw is running for re-election this fall as the DFL-endorsed candidate, though other people have also filed in the race for the Fourth Ward seat representing north Minneapolis. She said in a text message that she deeply appreciates those "who have asked me to consider running for a higher office."

"With that said, I am focused on doing my job — representing the Northside on the City Council, and improving safety outcomes in Minneapolis as Chair of the Public Health and Safety Committee," Vetaw said. "I have no other plans at this moment."

Omar is a prominent progressive voice on Capitol Hill who serves as deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. This month, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC endorsed her re-election run.

New York Democratic U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, the PAC's chairman, said in a statement that "Omar is a champion for the rights of Minnesotans," and added that "despite constant racist attacks from MAGA Republicans, Ilhan consistently shows up for her constituents and we are proud to endorse her re-election campaign."

Staff writers Ryan Faircloth and Dave Orrick contributed to this story.