Ellison Sets Sights on Attorney General Race, Setting Off Scramble by Candidates to Sign Up for His Seat

August 01, 2018 09:04 AM

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison has filed to run for Minnesota attorney general.

Ellison, a Democrat who was first elected to Congress from the 5th District in 2006, filed his candidacy for attorney general at the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office late Tuesday morning.

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Ellison first filed to withdraw from the 5th District Congressional race, which then set up a DFL stampede to run for his current office - considered a safe DFL seat.

By the end of the filing deadline Tuesday, 11 people filed to run for the incumbent's seat. Eight of the prospects are Democrat and three of them Republican. State Rep. Ilhan Omar, who became the nation's first Somali-American Muslim state lawmaker in 2016, added her name to the ballot. 

"I have carried the collective voices of my neighbors in District 60B – from the University of Minnesota, Augsburg, Prospect Park, Seward, Como and Cedar Riverside – to our state capitol," Omar said in a statement Tuesday. "Now, we have the opportunity to build on Congressman Keith Ellison's legacy and continue to uplift the voices of everyone who lives in Minneapolis, Eastern Hennepin County, as well as parts of Anoka and Ramsey Counties.

"A voice like mine has never been heard in Washington D.C. As your next Congresswoman, I will fight for criminal justice and policing reform; affordable and accessible education and housing; healthcare for all; environmental justice; and racial, economic, and social equity. As both an organizer and a Legislator, I have been pushing back against the profusion of bigotry and hate sweeping our nation, and I am ready to bring that fight to Capitol Hill."

Former Minnesota House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, State Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion and former Minneapolis City Council member Natalie Johnson Lee have also filed on the DFL side, along with Frank Nelson Drake, who lost to Ellison as a Republican in 2016. Jamal Abdi Abdulahi has also filed on the DFL side.

Republicans Christopher Chamberlin and Jennifer Zielinski have also filed, according to records at the secretary of state's office. Also filing as a Republican was Bob Carney Jr.

The 5th Congressional District is the state's most Democratic district.  It covers urban and suburban communities in Hennepin, Anoka and Ramsey counties. Given that three-quarters of the voters in the 5th are Democratic, political experts like Steven Schier, a professor at Carleton College, believe they will have more clout and a higher turnout than in recent memory.

"You'll be finding candidates on every street corner and they will want to talk to you every day, life will have an injection of politics that is unusual in that area," Schier said.

In Robbinsdale Tuesday, residents were aware of the filing deadline and the value of their coveted votes.

"It seems like clout will position candidates to make a change or make a difference, with increased clout I think it should increase the amount of scrutiny voters place on politicians," said Benjamin Sibioa, a Robbinsdale resident.

Gov. Mark Dayton issued a statement endorsing Ellison for attorney general Tuesday afternoon.

"I am proud to endorse Keith Ellison for Minnesota Attorney General. I have seen Keith lead as a courageous champion for working people – as a lawyer, Legislator, and Member of Congress," the statement read.

"With Keith Ellison as our Attorney General, Minnesotans will always know that they have a fighter on their side. Keith will work hard every day to protect people's rights, ensure Minnesotans can count on clean air and water, push for commonsense gun safety laws, and combat discrimination. He will be the people's lawyer, in the truest sense.

"I am excited about Keith's candidacy, and look forward to working with a broad-based coalition of Minnesotans to elect him our next Attorney General."

Ellison is also the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee. The Associated Press reports he will likely need to resign his post with the national party. He's taking on an endorsed candidate and several others. 

The move comes after a former Minnesota attorney general already threw his name into the hat in the race for his old office.

RELATED: Mike Hatch Files to Run for Attorney General

Records at the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office show Mike Hatch filed as a candidate Tuesday morning. Hatch, the DFL candidate for governor in 2006, was elected to the attorney general's office in 1998 and held it until January 2007. He was defeated by Tim Pawlenty in the 2006 governor's race.

However, Hauser reports Hatch is not definitely running and filed as a placeholder. He will make a decision based on who else might file.

RELATED: Attorney General Lori Swanson to Mount Late Bid for Governor, US Rep. Nolan her Running Mate

Delegates to the DFL convention in Rochester last weekend endorsed activist Matt Pelikan for attorney general over DFL incumbent Lori Swanson, who was first elected to the attorney general job succeeding Hatch in 2006.

Swanson then announced Monday she will compete as a candidate for governor in the DFL primary.

RELATED: AG Swanson Pulls out of DFL Endorsement Fight

The filing deadline was 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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