U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison returned to the campaign trail Friday in his quest to become Minnesota attorney general, as he tries to move past an allegation the he abused his ex-girlfriend.
He reiterated his denial of the accusation at a door-knocking event in north Minneapolis. He said he will not drop out of the race and will seek the DFL endorsement at the party’s state executive committee meeting Saturday.
“I believe I’ll be endorsed, and we’re working hard to make that happen,” Ellison said. “But I understand that these allegations have introduced something that, you know, that people have to contend with.”
Karen Monahan, Ellison’s ex-girlfriend, has described a 2016 incident where Ellison screamed at her while trying to drag her off a bed by her legs and feet. Monahan’s son made the allegation last Saturday in a Facebook post, saying he saw a video of what happened on his mother’s computer. Monahan later affirmed her son’s comments and said she used her phone to record the encounter.
Monahan told the Star Tribune on Friday that she offered to meet with state DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin to talk about it. She said Martin has not responded to that offer she sent via Facebook. Martin said he never received it.
He met with Monahan, who is a Sierra Club organizer, earlier this year to talk about other things and she never mentioned the experience with Ellison, Martin said.
“I’m not here to convince anyone,” Monahan said via text. “I simply shared my story, and if others are concerned about this issue and want to have an authentic conversation, I’m happy to meet with them.”
Ellison won the DFL primary Tuesday, receiving widespread support across the state even after the allegation emerged over the weekend. He will compete with Republican Doug Wardlow for the attorney general’s job in the November general election.
Ellison has kept a low profile since the primary, though he did have a small gathering with supporters in Woodbury on Thursday night. At Friday’s event in Minneapolis, Ellison gave the group of about 15 volunteers a short pep talk and told them to focus on the issues, such as protecting senior citizens from scams, lowering drug prices and fighting for equality for women, immigrants and people of color.
He then addressed a group of reporters. He said he is trying to assure voters who might be rethinking their support that their trust in him was well-placed.
“Not only did I not do this, I will continue to be an advocate for safe homes for all people, especially women. I will continue to be a fierce opponent of domestic violence,” he said.
Millions of women have been abused or mistreated and not believed, Ellison said, and that’s a real problem.
“I don’t believe everybody who says something should be believed just because they said it, but I do believe people should be listened to,” he said.
Monahan told CBS News on Thursday that the 2016 incident was the only time Ellison was physically violent during their relationship, and she does not want to share the video of it because it is traumatizing. Ellison said Friday such a video could not exist, because the abuse never happened.
Women’s advocacy groups UltraViolet and the National Organization for Women have called for Ellison to withdraw from the race to become Minnesota’s chief legal officer and said they believe survivors of domestic violence.
Even if Ellison wanted to take his name off the November ballot, he likely could not do so because certain criteria would have to be met, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office.
Jennifer Christensen, president of the South St. Paul-based division of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, was among the volunteers at North Commons Park. Ellison’s congressional district includes Minneapolis and some surrounding suburbs and does not extend to South St. Paul, she said, but he stood with the union when they needed him and they are standing with Ellison now.
She said she believes Ellison didn’t abuse Monahan, and his campaign reached out to the union after the allegations to touch base. She said she wants due process to get to the truth of what happened, and did not like how Democratic Party leaders forced U.S. Sen. Al Franken to resign after allegations were made against him.
“Our most powerful advocates can be so easily destroyed by an accusation because we’re seeking this high level of perfection that none of us have. … These are human beings that are fighting for us,” Christensen said.
A family of six from New York was also part of the group of door knocking supporters in green T-shirts. Long Island resident Ishan Khwaja said he has known Ellison for a decade, and his wife and four children came to Minnesota to help campaign for him the week before the primary.
“Whatever happens between closed doors, I have to say that it’s irrelevant to what he does for the people here,” Melina Khwaja said, adding that Ellison has helped the community and would have even more power to do so if elected attorney general.