The Alabama Republican candidate for U.S. Senate who just knocked off an incumbent urged Congress not to seat U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison in 2006 because he is Muslim.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Ellison called Roy Moore “completely unfit,” a liar and theocrat who puts the Bible above the U.S. Constitution.

Ellison, a Democrat from the Minneapolis-centered Fifth District, was the first Muslim elected to Congress. At the time, Moore publicly argued in writing that Ellison should not be seated because of his beliefs. Ellison took the oath of office in January 2007 using a Qur’an once owned by Thomas Jefferson. He has been in office since.

Moore on Tuesday defeated a President Donald Trump-backed candidate in the Alabama Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate. In deep red Alabama, Moore is the favorite to win a December runoff for the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions’ appointment as U.S. Attorney General.

If Moore is elected to the U.S. Senate, Ellison said he would “harm” democracy. “People in Minnesota should not think, ‘Oh that’s Alabama,’ ” Ellison said, “We cannot feel safe. What he does impacts everybody.”

Ellison said he has and will continue to campaign for Democrat Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney in northern Alabama who was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton. Jones prosecuted and won convictions for two Ku Klux Klan members for their roles in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that killed four little girls.

The Minnesotan acknowledged it’s a “very very tough uphill climb” for Jones. He said Democrats will have to go to Alabama for grass-roots organizing to get disenfranchised “poor folks” to the polls. “They’ve been discriminated against their whole lives,” Ellison said, adding that he was referring to blacks and whites accustomed to being locked out of power to the point they don’t participate in the democratic process.

Ellison said that unlike Moore, he doesn’t want state-mandated religion. “He has a right to have his opinion, but when you are a member of Congress, you swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States,” Ellison said.

He pointed out that Moore is so extreme he was “snatched out of his position two times because he refused to abide by orders.” He referred to the two times Moore was removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

Moore was ousted once for refusing to remove a massive statue of the Ten Commandments from the court building. A second time he was ousted for directing state judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Attempts to reach Moore’s campaign by telephone and e-mail weren’t successful.


Twitter: @rochelleolson