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INTERVIEW (Part II): Ilhan Omar Challenger Chris Kelley Talks Border Crisis, Trump, Hyper-Partisanship, And More

By  Frank Camp
Minnesota CD5 candidate Chris Kelley.
Photo by Susan Shogren Smith via the Chris Kelley campaign

In July, Minneapolis Police Officer and U.S. Army veteran Chris Kelley announced his intention to run for office as an independent in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District (CD5). Kelley will not only be facing Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has occupied the seat since 2018, but also the Republican who wins the party’s primary (there are currently four who have announced a run).

In 2018, Omar defeated Republican opponent Jennifer Zielinski 78% to 21.7% (a whopping 56.3% difference).

The following is part two of a two-part interview with Chris Kelley in which the candidate speaks about the border crisis, how his experience in the military and police will shape him as a legislator, the extreme partisanship in Congress, and President Trump.

Make sure to check out part one where Kelley discussed Ilhan Omar, running as an independent, his priorities if elected, and why he decided to jump into the race.

DW: How will your experience working as a police officer help you as an elected official?

KELLEY: Well, not only as a police officer, but I’m ex-military, too, for a number of years. Going with the military, I’ve deployed, I’ve been overseas, we worked with other cultures, worked with other people to try and find solutions. It just wasn’t a military thing. The last time in Iraq, we were helping – the area we were working in, our operating area, I should say – finding out what was going on, what was making people unhappy, what was working. We worked on a little bit of nation-building. I know that’s not the primary goal of the military, but you’re trying to help them all get back on their feet. So, I was out with a lot of other people. We were talking to the local governments, trying to find out what their issues were, and helping them try to rectify things, whether it was healthcare or utility issues. Anywhere we could help. I think it was a good experience the last time I went there. It wasn’t a combat role, as [much as] helping the population stand up.

Going back to the police – we work with all different kinds of people. I’m expected to make decisions in seconds and minutes. Just think what I could do as a legislator. I have time to maybe get some meaningful legislation done. I think both roles I’ve held before will prep me immensely for this new role if I’m fortunate enough to get elected. It’s just another way I can serve. And I’ve been doing it from a young age, 18, from the military and going to the PD. I think they prepped me very well there helping serve.

DW: Are you concerned that running as an independent could split the vote?

KELLEY: I truly believe, based on internal polling numbers that we have, that there are a number of disenfranchised moderate Republicans and Democrats who are sick and tired of the paralysis of extremes. I think my candidacy gives them an option to meet in the middle. Because Minnesota has always had a penchant for third party candidates, which is evidenced by its voting history, I believe there is a real opportunity here. I think they are looking for someone who will actually work for the district and not just enhance their own celebrity.

DW: So there’s a stronger incentive to run as an independent in Minnesota than in other states?

KELLEY: Correct. I’m not saying it’s for everywhere, but Minnesota does have a history with the Independence Party, and people do gravitate toward it. I think this is a great time for people to really give a good look at us again. It kind of waned. People need another viable alternative, and I think we’re it. I really do.

DW: What do you think Congress in general is lacking?

KELLEY: I just think they’re not working. It’s so partisan and divided now. You look at the Left. They seem to be just focused on getting the President, and that’s where all the time and effort seems to be going. They’re failing their constituents. The Republicans, again, are digging their heels in, fighting things or countering what the Democrats are doing. It’s nothing. There’s no effective legislation. There’s nothing being done.

Here’s a prime example. A few months ago with the border crisis, when it “wasn’t a crisis,” then it “was a crisis.” Well, all the Left was doing was criticizing the border patrol and everything they were doing. They were undermanned, underfunded, and being overwhelmed, quite frankly, with everybody coming across the border. But the Republicans did nothing to help them out either. We’re stagnated. I’m hoping that maybe this next election, new people will come in [with] new ideas, and at least they’ll be in the mindset that we need to work together to get things done. Because right now, it’s not happening. And again, it’s both sides that are failing us.

DW: What’s your hope for the border? What would you look to accomplish?

KELLEY: Primarily, we do need to secure it. You don’t have a country without a secure border – and it’s not only because of immigration. If you look at the human trafficking, if you look at the narcotics, there may be even a terrorism issue coming up through that porous border. I really think you need to secure that first and foremost.

Going to another issue, with immigration, I want to support DACA. I believe that kids who came in at a young age or were born here, they don’t know anywhere else, so we’ve definitely got to help them out. I think that should be a priority. And finally, I believe in lawful immigration. It makes our country richer with people coming in. And I know people want to come here to have a better life, and we should support that as long as they do it the right way.

But on the border right now, it’s just not a good situation, and I’m glad that the president was – I don’t support him 100% – but I’m glad he stepped in and is doing something. It’s good to see or military coming and helping secure the border and getting some things straightened out.

Also, I’d to like see these immigration ports, maybe we need to expand on that, too, expedite this long wait, if we could help out in that place. I know we’re already dealing with the asylum issue. Maybe they need to expand that until some kind of meaningful law gets passed.

DW: I know you’re running as an independent, but if you are elected, there are a lot of Republicans and some others who are unwilling or unable to criticize the President. If he’s doing something right, they’ll praise him. But if he’s doing something wrong, they’ll just remain silent. Would you be willing to disagree vocally with the President?

KELLEY: Well, sure I could disagree vocally, but I’m not going to attack him. But yes, I’m not going to be a rubber stamp from the president. I do lean conservative. I like some of the things he’s done, i.e. the economy’s good. I like that he supports first responders and the military. That’s very important to me. I like finally getting a president that’s very vocal about that.

I don’t like the late-night Twitter rants that he’s been doing, and a lot of people don’t agree with that. He’s the president, but he also has the right to reach out to the people in any way, shape, or form he wants to. But yeah, I would not be afraid if it was something that I was very passionate about. No problems. But, I think we need to go there to legislate and cooperate.

DW: Is there anything that we haven’t touched on that you would want our readership, or voters in general, to know about you or your campaign?

KELLEY: I’m just very honored by all of the support I’ve received from all over the place. I know there’s a strong Republican interest in the district, but there’s a strong interest in the district for an individual. I’ve been well supported, you know, running as an independent, and I want to say I’m very humbled with how people have been reaching out to me and supporting me in all forms.

And we’re going to run a good campaign. We’re not looking at negative aspects. We just want to get out there and throw our message out about what we can do for the district.

Remember to check out part one of this interview here, and for more information on Chris Kelley, visit his official campaign website here.

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