As the nation's first Muslim elected to Congress, three-term Rep. Keith Ellison has gracefully endured vicious bloggers, thoughtless questions from talk-show hosts and paranoid accusations from a Minnesota congresswoman.
Ellison failed to meet his own standards of decorum when he lost it in a recent debate with Republican challenger Chris Fields, calling the challenger a "lowlife scumbag" after Fields lobbed a below-the-belt and unsubstantiated allegation about cheapskate child support.
The meltdown was out of character, and Ellison quickly issued a public apology. The brouhaha reflected poorly on both candidates, but voters should give Ellison a pass this time and send him back to the U.S. House in November.
Unlike Fields, a relative newcomer to the city, Ellison is a longtime resident of north Minneapolis. His urban Fifth Congressional District faces grim challenges. The trust and communication that come with Ellison's deep community ties are the key to progress. Fighting poverty and closing educational gaps take time, a reality Fields ignores when he blames Ellison for disappointing progress.
Ellison, 49, has been a strong proponent of consumer protection measures for credit-card holders and those facing foreclosure. He's pushed hard to steer federal money to his district for projects such as light rail and the gunfire detection system in Minneapolis. Fields' criticism that Ellison didn't secure individual disaster aid for tornado victims is off-base. Ellison and other Minnesota politicians did all they could.
Ellison is considered "far left" by some political tracking organizations. He should moderate his stance on federal budget issues. Compromise is needed on both ends of the political spectrum if the nation is to ink a "grand bargain" on reducing its long-term debt.
Fields is an impressive newcomer, but he needs to invest more time in the community before he's ready for Congress.