With signs that his re-election bid for attorney general is a no-brainer, Keith Ellison lined up alongside Democratic Sen. and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Rochester on Friday morning.
Speaking to a semicircle of about 300 supporters at the Rochester Regional Sports Center, Sanders called Ellison “one of the leaders in this country” who stands up for working families and the middle class and has the “guts” to take on special interests.
Ellison served in the US House of Representatives for 12 years, while Sanders served in the Senate, before Ellison was elected Minnesota Attorney General in 2018.
“Millions of people from Vermont to Minnesota and across the country go to work and earn hungry wages,” Sanders said. “And Keith understood, as I do, that you need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.”
Sanders has headlined rallies over the past two days to boost Ellison’s campaign. Polls show that of the races in the state, the race for attorney general is the closest.
Sanders, who has galvanized and galvanized the left during the past two presidential bids, clashed with Ellison in Duluth on Thursday night before coming to Rochester and then on to Minneapolis.
Ellison is in a tight race with Republican Jim Schultz, a private sector lawyer. Ellison had a narrow lead over Schultz among likely Minnesota voters, 46 percent to 45 percent, according to a KARE 11/Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota poll dated Sept. 18, 2022. About nine percent of those polled were undecided.
Voters head to the polls on Nov. 8, but mail-in voting has already begun in Minnesota.
In his trademark speech, Sanders called the GOP’s position on abortion “the height of hypocrisy.” Republicans, he said, stand for small government and letting “the American people do whatever they want, unless you’re a woman who has to make one of the most personal decisions of your life.”
Without naming him, Sanders noted that Ellison’s opponent called Ellison “extreme.” Sanders argued that Republicans were to blame for the projection.
“Let me talk about what’s extreme,” Sanders said. “It’s extreme when you have an economy in the United States where the richest people are getting phenomenally richer while working people are seeing their standard of living decline. It’s really extreme.”
Before introducing Sanders, Ellison directly addressed the issue that is seen as his biggest vulnerability: crime. He said there have been 200 mass shootings in the last 300 days.
“Anyone who runs around talking about crime but doesn’t talk about gun safety is not trying to have a serious conversation with you,” he said.
Public safety means police and prosecutors, but it also means “strong neighborhoods, good schools and neighbors working together,” Ellison said.
The Minnesota Republican Party has not won a statewide election since 2006. The last Republican to do so was Governor Tim Polenti. The DFL has currently won 22 consecutive statewide elections in Minnesota since 2008.
Ellison is at risk of ending the GOP election drought. And one of its biggest vulnerabilities is crime. Last month, two dozen Minnesota county sheriffs announced they were endorsing Schultz for attorney general.
Ellison is a former vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a one-time leader of his party’s progressive wing in Washington.
After the killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and the eruption of protests that followed, Ellison supported a measure to replace the city’s police department with a “Department of Public Safety” and eliminate minimum staffing requirements. The measure was rejected by voters in Minneapolis last year.
Although supporters of the measure insisted it was not intended to “defund the police,” moderate Republicans, along with DFL Gov. Tim Waltz, opposed the measure.
In an ABC News/Ipsos poll this summer, the GOP had an 11-point lead over Democrats on crime, an issue that ranked higher than inflation, gas prices or the economy.
A statement released by Schultz’s campaign this morning said it was “no surprise” that Ellison is campaigning with “outspoken socialist Bernie Sanders.”
“Ellison has proven himself to be a political activist masquerading as an attorney general. Time and time again, he has put the whims of the far left before the safety and security of Minnesotans, and that is an absolute disgrace.”