Rep. Keith Ellison’s political future is “on the ropes” following allegations of domestic abuse that have cast a pall over the congressman’s bid to become Minnesota’s next attorney general and made some Democrats skittish about getting too close to him in public.
A couple of liberal organizations have called on Mr. Ellison, who is stepping down from his House seat to run for attorney general, to pull the plug on his campaign. Others that were excited about his candidacy have gone quiet.
“Keith Ellison is on the ropes,” said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.
Mr. Ellison’s ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan and her son accuse him of physical and verbal abuse — and claim it was caught on tape.
“There is real anxiety in the Democratic Party — particularly at the leadership level — that he is going to become the face of the ticket in the fall,” Mr. Jacobs said. “I think the concern is that not everything has come out, and more will come out, including the video and possibly complaints from other women.”
On the flip side, Mr. Ellison remains a political force with the Bernard Sanders wing of the party, leaving Democrats like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a possible 2020 presidential contender, contemplating the cost of abandoning him.
Mr. Ellison’s political allies, meanwhile, are taking a wait-and-see approach, giving him the benefit of the doubt and urging people not to rush to judgment.
“While these allegations are concerning, they are allegations,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, who has endorsed Mr. Ellison, said in a statement to The Washington Times. “The same values that call us to take it seriously when a member of our community speaks their truth should also prevent a rush to judgment against a member of our community who stands accused.
“In today’s political climate, Representative Ellison’s distinguished record of fighting to protect the most vulnerable among us is exactly what we need in an Attorney General for Minnesota,” Mr. Carter said.
MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, Our Revolution and the Service Employees International Union are among the groups that have stood by their endorsement of Mr. Ellison.
Those groups did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Mr. Ellison, meanwhile, got a significant show of faith over the weekend after the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsed his campaign.
Mr. Ellison easily won the Democratic primary last week amid the allegations.
Ms. Monahan said that in the fall of 2016 Mr. Ellison called her a vulgar female slur after he asked her to take out the trash and she did not act immediately.
She said he swore and told her to leave the house “and he started to try to drag me off the bed,” Ms. Monahan told CBS last week. “That’s when I put my camera on to video him.”
Ms. Monahan, though, doesn’t plan to release the footage. She said it is humiliating and “traumatizing for everyone’s family involved and for me” and that people should trust her.
She later told a local Fox News affiliate that her relationship with Mr. Ellison left her with “complex PTSD” and told CNN that she could not locate the video.
Mr. Ellison has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to face the allegations head-on. He said in an interview with the local CBS affiliate in Minnesota that such a video couldn’t exist “because I never did that.”
“It simply didn’t happen,” Mr. Ellison said.
Asked whether he abused her physically or emotionally, the 55-year-old said he didn’t.
The allegations have threatened to undermine Mr. Ellison’s image as a vocal advocate for the #MeToo movement, which has swallowed up men in powerful positions in Hollywood, the media and politics, and has sparked a national conversation about mistreatment of women.
When Sen. Al Franken resigned from office over allegations of sexual misconduct, Mr. Ellison commended the “brave women” who came forward to share their stories and said the fellow Minnesota Democrat’s decision to step down “shows a strength of character” that escaped other elected officials.
The National Organization for Women and Ultraviolet now want Mr. Ellison to follow Mr. Franken’s lead and end his campaign.
“We believe survivors,” NOW President Toni Van Pelt said in a statement last week. “Keith Ellison says he wants to protect women from domestic violence and sexual assault. That starts by believing survivors.”
Mr. Ellison faced similar allegations over a decade ago from another Democratic activist, Amy Louise Alexander. She said she had an affair with Mr. Ellison when he was married in the 1990s and that during a visit to her house in 2005, he grabbed her and verbally abused her, threatened her, and broke the screen door on his way out.
News outlets struggled to corroborate her claims.
Mr. Ellison, who divorced his wife in 2010, has denied he was romantically involved with Ms. Alexander and took out a restraining order against her in 2005.
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