The selection of Keith Ellison as the Democratic candidate in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District is being treated as something of a curiosity around the country. Ellison defeated former Democrat State Party Chair Mike Erlandson, former State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, and current Minneapolis City Councilman Paul Ostrow in the September 12th primary election.
Ellison, a two-term DFL (the Democrat Party in Minnesota is known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party) State Representative from Minneapolis, is catching notice because if elected he would be the first black Congressman from Minnesota, and the first Muslim elected to Congress.
On the left in Minnesota, Ellison is being lauded as the new Paul Wellstone, a fiery speaker unafraid to speak truth to power. But in more mainstream circles, Ellison's victory is seen as a troubling indicator that the DFL here has lost touch with its mainstream roots.
Rep. Ellison first caught notice in Minnesota as a defender of gang leaders in Minneapolis and a local organizer for Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March. He was a defender of Kathleen Soliah, recently convicted for her involvement in the assassination of a police officer while she was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army. He is also a supporter of Mumia Abu Jamal and Assata Shakur, both convicted of killing police officers. Over the years, he has advocated racial separatism, reparations for slavery, and led chants at rallies proclaiming “no justice, no peace.”
In short, Ellison is nothing if not a radical.
Unfortunately, Ellison’s victory in the primary was no anomaly here in Minnesota. While Democrats might be comforting themselves with the idea that Ellison’s victory in one of the Bluest of the Blue districts in the country means little, a quick look at the state of the DFL shows otherwise.
Consider these facts:
1. In just the past year, Senator Dean Johnson, the Majority Leader of the State Senate, was taped lying to a group of ministers about improper conversations he claimed to have had with members of the Minnesota Supreme Court — conversations that never occurred. Ethics charges were filed; an investigation of the Supreme Court Justices ensued exonerating them. Johnson was forced to admit that he “sanded off the truth.” Yet the DFL members of the State Senate unanimously reaffirmed their faith in Johnson as their leader.
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