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Court Dispute Spills Into Minn. Campaign

October 19, 2006 GMT

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A Democrat favored to become the first Muslim elected to Congress has accused a woman of blackmailing him over an extramarital relationship he denies they had.

Keith Ellison has been legally entangled with the woman, Amy Alexander, for more than a year. Their dispute spilled into public view Wednesday with a legal filing.

Ellison’s attorney said that Alexander, with help from a local freelance writer, sought $10,000 to stay quiet about the relationship Alexander says she had with Ellison, as well as allegations he had other romantic relationships.

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The filing seeks dismissal of Alexander’s earlier request for a restraining order against Ellison.

Ellison’s campaign manager, Dave Colling, said Thursday that Ellison, who has been married 19 years, and Alexander were never romantically involved.

Alexander is a Democratic activist from Minneapolis, Ellison’s home turf. She contends they first met at a tenant organizing conference in 1993.

Ellison is running to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Martin Sabo. Ellison, who is running against Republican Alan Fine and the Independence Party’s Tammy Lee, has also faced criticism over past associations with the Nation of Islam and failures to pay parking tickets and file campaign finance reports.

In June 2005, Ellison obtained a restraining order against Alexander claiming that she stalked him and harassed him in a series of phone calls and e-mails, according to his motion for the order.

Alexander’s attorney, Steve Baker, did not immediately respond to a phone message left Thursday by The Associated Press, and contact information for her couldn’t immediately be found.

In an essay she wrote earlier this month for the Wright County Republican, a monthly newsletter, Alexander said her 12-year, on-and-off relationship with Ellison came to a head at the 2005 Minneapolis Democratic convention. She said Ellison told her she wouldn’t get a job she’d been seeking at an organization where he had ties. A few days later, she wrote, he came to her house and was physically intimidating, and soon started a ``smear campaign″ against her.

Shortly before the September primary, Alexander sought her own restraining order. A hearing on her request is set for Nov. 20.