CAMBRIDGE, MINN. – The Minnesota DFL Party overwhelmingly voted Saturday to put its support behind Keith Ellison despite the domestic abuse allegation that has clouded his bid for state attorney general.

Ellison, who handily won Tuesday's primary election, won over 82 percent of the delegates voting at the DFL state executive committee meeting. The party also agreed to back U.S. Rep. Tim Walz for governor following his primary victory against previously endorsed state Rep. Erin Murphy.

Whether delegates would get behind Ellison was the only major question Saturday.

In his speech to a packed auditorium, Ellison again denied abusing ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan, who has described a 2016 incident in which she said 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 had seen video. Monahan later said that she used her phone to record the encounter.

"I want to tell you, face to face, that I never abused Karen," Ellison said Saturday. "Despite everything, I still care about her as a person and I don't want anybody to say anything insulting to her at all."

Earlier Saturday, about a dozen protesters gathered outside Cambridge-Isanti High School before the meeting, shouting "Ellison beats women."

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin quickly voiced support for Ellison as he sought to rally around the party's candidates with just 80 days until Election Day.

"Our party is going to do everything it can to help Keith and the other candidates on the ballot," Martin said after reading off the results of the vote.

Later, Martin released a statement in support of Ellison. "As Attorney General, Keith will be a champion for families and fight to hold powerful interests accountable," it said, in part.

Roann Cramer, a Minneapolis delegate and Ellison supporter, said Saturday that she knew Ellison and Monahan had a "messy relationship" but said she still supported the candidate because she didn't believe that he was abusive.

"We have an allegation that's a serious allegation and I want to take that seriously," Cramer said. "But it is as far as I can tell one allegation about one event that took a couple of minutes years ago. … I've got 12 years of experience with this guy, I've never seen anything like that from him."

Vote by paper ballot

The DFL committee conducted a paper ballot vote instead of a voice vote at the suggestion of a delegate who said she wanted her fellow party members "to feel free to vote their conscience." Delegates had the option of voting for Ellison or making no endorsement, but the party could not remove him from the ballot, party co-chair Tim O'Brien explained before the vote.

The 326-70 vote for endorsement allows Ellison to marshal DFL resources like sample ballots or fundraising during his campaign. Responding to questions from another delegate, O'Brien said the party could pull its endorsement should additional evidence surface against Ellison.

Speaking to delegates before the vote, Ellison also sought to cast his Republican opponent, Doug Wardlow, as a candidate bent on stripping women's reproductive rights and as an enemy of collective bargaining.

Ellison further predicted that his appearance on the ballot would increase voter turnout statewide.

Ellison was not on hand to hear the results. But before he left the stage Saturday, he urged DFLers to "stick with me in this moment."

"Even though I have said to you and said to anyone who wants to listen that what I was accused of is not true, I have learned a lot and I promise to you that I will be transparent and forthright about everything," Ellison said.

"I will continue to affirm the importance of the movement that is giving victims a voice."

Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755 Twitter: @smontemayor