Sanders stumps for Ellison’s Minnesota attorney general bid
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders rallied for Rep. Keith Ellison’s campaign for attorney general in Minneapolis Friday, giving a high-profile jolt to the normally sleepy race for Minnesota’s top lawyer.
Ellison, the nation’s first Muslim congressman, is part of a crowded Democratic field vying to replace outgoing Attorney General Lori Swanson. After six terms in Congress representing the Minneapolis area and a recent position as a top party official with the Democratic National Committee, his candidacy has elevated the normally sleepy race for Attorney General.
Sanders’ endorsement and support for Ellison’s bid only fueled interest ahead of an Aug. 14 primary that will also determine candidates from both parties in pivotal races for governor, Congress and more. Hundreds packed into First Avenue, the famed concert venue in downtown Minneapolis, to see both Ellison and Sanders speak.
Sanders, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, told the crowd that he would miss working with Ellison in Congress to try to raise the federal minimum wage and expand Medicare as a single-payer health care program. But he noted that fight wouldn’t end if Ellison became attorney general.
“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Sanders said. “But Keith has concluded, and I think it is the right decision, that he can play more of a role in fighting for working people, in fighting for consumers and farmers ... by becoming the next attorney general of the state of Minnesota.”
The race for attorney general in Minnesota has generally been a low-key affair. Swanson cruised to victories in each of her three terms by more than 10 percentage points, and those elections have rarely attracted much attention — let alone endorsements or visits from major national political figures.
But that changed when Swanson exited the race to launch a last-minute bid for governor last month. Her decision triggered a chain reaction in Democratic politics, as candidates scrambled to replace her. Ellison’s decision to run for attorney general likewise prompted a scramble to replace him in his safely Democratic seat in Congress.
Ellison filed for the office just hours ahead of a deadline in early June, as did state Rep. Debra Hilstrom, former Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman and former Ramsey County Attorney Tom Foley. Little-known local attorney Matt Pelikan — whose shocking performance at the party’s nominating convention led Swanson to withdraw from the race — is also running with the Democratic endorsement.
The winner of the Aug. 14 primary is likely to face Republican Doug Wardlow in November.
But Sanders didn’t mention Ellison’s opponents from either party throughout the race, and spent much of his 30-plus minute speech rehashing some of the policies and applause lines that fueled his rise during the 2016 presidential campaign as a more liberal alternative to former Secretary of State and eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He made no mention of his potential plans for the 2020 presidential election.
Sanders sought to galvanize voters into getting involved in the midterm election, portraying it as the only to block President Donald Trump and his administration’s agenda.
“Our job, in a way that we have never done it before, is to get out in the streets and make it clear what Trump stands for and make it clear what our alt, progressive vision is about,” Sanders said.
But Ellison told supporters that he and other attorneys general nationwide could were the key to fighting the separation of children and parents immigrating into the country illegally, reversing the repeal of net neutrality and continuing to push back against the Trump administration’s travel ban.
“Attorneys general all over this country led the fight against this Muslim ban. It was Hawaii v. Trump,” Ellison said.