A live radio debate between Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and his Republican challenger, Chris Fields, in the Fifth Congressional District race turned nasty this morning, with the two candidates trading accusations and insults and Ellison calling Fields a “lowlife scumbag.”
During the debate on KFAI-FM, sparks flew when Fields accused Ellison of paying a Washington, D.C.-based political research firm to dig up dirt on Fields’ personal life. Media reports recently revealed that Fields' ex-wife filed a restraining order against him in 2006 when he lived in southern California.
Ellison, who accused Fields of lying repeatedly throughout the debate, called Fields stupid for discussing the domestic dispute. Ellison denied that he had anything to do with the revelation.
"You're really stupid," Ellison said. "You're a scumbag. You're a lowlife scumbag," said Ellison, who would later offer a public apology for the statement.
From there, Fields began offering commentary on Ellison’s recent divorce, which was finalized in late September.
During the exchange, Ellison told Fields: “My daughter is in the next room. I’m exercising a lot of self-control right now.”
During the heated argument, KFAI went silent and cut away from the exchange while the candidates calmed down, but afterwards they continued to trade barbs.
Things became heated again as they debated the education and employment disparities between black and white residents in the Fifth District.
“I’m trying to remove the biggest obstacle to fixing things,” Fields said at one point. “You.”
As the debate ended, Ellison told Fields: “I look forward to your concession speech.”
Even as the moderator wrapped up the broadcast, the candidates, still arguing, could be heard talking over her.
Ellison's campaign released this statement after the debate:
"Today during a radio broadcast debate, my opponent made false statements about an intensely personal family matter. My teenage daughter was present in the next room listening to the debate.
In response to my opponent's false statement, I made an uncivil reference to him. I should not have done so. I acted beneath my personal standard as a public official, and I apologize.
In the course of this campaign, we have been focused on creating economic prosperity for working families, protecting our constitutional right to vote, and making sure that everybody counts and everybody matters--and yet, my opponent has repeatedly and personally attacked me.
His untrue reference to the terms of my divorce was over the line, but my comment to him was over the line too. His tactics are no excuse for my departure from civility.
I will not allow this to happen again, and I regret my action."
Fields offered his own statement:
“At a time when we need civility and leadership from Washington politicians Congressman Ellison has proved that he cannot deliver and as a result we all suffer. Since Ellison has been in office he has pursued a senseless foreign policy agenda, failed domestic policies and pointless legislation such as reparations for slavery. Our campaign has been centered on providing credible and workable solutions for the people of our district. We have focused on two areas; closing the achievement gap and unemployment gap between blacks and whites. These gaps affect everyone in our district and pose a very real threat to Americans nationwide. In addition, we are also focused on protecting the most vulnerable among us; our seniors, veterans, the middle class and single parents.” Fields said in a statement released following the debate. The Ellison campaign has been engaged in name-calling and various other political games designed to detract attention from Congressman Ellison’s record of failure. This month alone Fields has been attacked as a “liar” dozens of times without provocation or factual justification. “While I cannot apologize for Congressman Ellison’s violent outbursts, I do believe the voters of the Fifth Congressional District are entitled to a Representative who more accurately reflects their values of people working together regardless of their background or political beliefs. If I elected I will work to continue to build bridges with all communities and provide the focused attention needed to move us forward.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Wednesday that Senate Democrats would support whatever special session deal that their fellow DFLers, Gov. Mark Dayton, is able to strike with GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt.