Keith Ellison Falling Behind In Race For Minnesota Attorney General

Congressman Keith Ellison appears to be falling behind in the race to be Minnesota's next Attorney General.

Keith Ellison, the first Muslim-American Member of Congress who presently also serves as the Deputy Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, appears to be falling behind in his bid to become Attorney General of Minnesota after a summer in which charges of domestic abuse became public:

Republican Doug Wardlow has pulled ahead of Democrat U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison in the race for Minnesota attorney general, a Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll found.

Wardlow now leads by 7 percentage points, at 43 percent to 36 percent for Ellison, just a month after the Democrat held a 5-point edge in a September Minnesota Poll. The switch follows a turbulent period for the Ellison campaign, as he has navigated the political fallout of his former girlfriend’s allegation that he abused her in 2016, a claim he denies.

About one in six poll participants said they had not made up their minds about who to support. Republicans appear to be falling in line behind Wardlow, but an increasing number of Democrats were undecided about who to back compared to September.

The poll, which has a margin of sampMMling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, included interviews with 800 likely voters and was conducted Oct. 15-17. That means it was primarily conducted just before the public release of Ellison’s divorce file on Oct. 17, which did not include any claims he abused his ex-wife.

Voters in Hennepin and Ramsey counties preferred Ellison in the new poll, but Wardlow was ahead in every other part of the state.

Wardlow’s support also grew among voters aged 18 to 34. That age group went for Ellison by a wide margin in the September poll, and while he still leads among such voters, the percentage that backed Wardlow more than doubled.

The poll showed Ellison, a six-term congressman, former state legislator and deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is more widely known around the state than his opponent. Wardlow is an attorney who served one term in the Minnesota House. More people said they are aware of Wardlow compared to last month, but nonetheless fewer than half the people who took part in the survey said they recognized his name.

Some poll participants who plan to vote for the Republican said their decision is based less on Wardlow and more on opposition to Ellison.

“It’s more that Keith Ellison scares me,” said Dave Theis, 56, a farmer from Jordan. He fears Ellison will file “endless lawsuits” against President Donald Trump’s administration, which he worries could cost Minnesotans millions.

Linda Washington, 69, a retired 3M employee from Stacy, said she is scared too — but it’s Trump she fears. She is looking for an attorney general who will stand up to the president on issues like immigration, and believes Ellison would fill that role.

Washington said she is concerned the #MeToo movement has reached a point where people are too quick to judge someone like Ellison, whom she called a “straight shooter.” She doesn’t believe he committed abuse, and said she liked how he handled the difficult situation — particularly his willingness to comply with any investigation.

More from The Washington Post:

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has fallen behind in his bid to become Minnesota’s attorney general, a new poll finds.

Republican Doug Wardlow leads Ellison, a six-term congressman and deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, 43 percent to 36 percent, according to the Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll.

The poll shows eroding support for Ellison during a stretch when he has faced allegations of abuse by a former girlfriend. Ellison, one of the more liberal members of Congress, has vigorously denied the allegations.

In a September poll, Ellison was leading Wardlow, an attorney who served one term in the Minnesota House, 41 percent to 36 percent.

In the current poll, about 1 in 6 likely voters remain undecided ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

The poll of 800 likely voters was conducted Oct. 15 to Oct. 17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

It was largely conducted before documents related to Ellison’s 2012 divorce file were publicly released over his objections.

The documents contained no allegation that Ellison abused his ex-wife. They did, however, contain a 2015 statement in which he reported that she had hit him throughout their 25-year marriage.

Ellison won the Democratic nomination for Attorney General rather easily back in August, but that was before much of the evidence regarding the abuse allegations against him had become public. At that point, all the public was aware of were the allegations themselves, although they were not entirely unprecedented. In 2006, the Congressman faced similar allegations from another former girlfriend. These allegations of emotional and physical abuse were similar to those being made by Monahan and her son, but have not had any appreciable impact on Ellison’s political career. Since those first allegations, Ellison went on to be elected and re-elected to Congress on multiple occasions and most recently was elected to a top position in the Democratic National Committee during which the previous abuse allegations do not appear to have any impact at all. At the same time, though, it’s worth noting that all of those allegations came before the rise of the “MeToo” movement and the allegations that have been made against a range of powerful men ranging from Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein to Minnesota Senator Al Franken. In any case, the last minute allegations back in August came just days before the primary and thus were likely too late to have any real impact on the outcome of the race. This was especially true given the fact that Ellison has denied the allegations and his ex-wife refused to make public tapes which apparently contain evidence supporting her allegations.

Since then, though, additional evidence regarding the allegations against Ellison has become public, and other questions have been raised about his past, including his ties to controversial “Black Muslim” leader Louis Farrakhan. As a result, while other Democratic candidates in statewide races in Minnesota have pulled far ahead of their Republican opponents, the polling in the Attorney General’s race has shown the race between Wordlaw and Ellison has been far closer. It’s worth noting that this is only the second poll showing Wardlaw leading Ellison, but it could be the beginning of a trend set in motion by the questions raised about Ellison’s past, his associations, and his temperament. Additionally, as Minnesotan Ed Morrissey notes in his post about this poll at Hot Air, there are some caveats in these numbers:

First, Wardlow has 86% of Republicans supporting him with 9% undecided; Ellison only has 76% of Democrats supporting him with twenty percent undecided. With just two weeks to go, it’s a real question as to how many of those Democrats will grudgingly vote for Ellison for party loyalty and solidarity, but some of them surely will. On the other hand, 18% of independents are still undecided, and Wardlow is blowing out Ellison among unaffiliated voters 47/21. If those voters were comfortable with Ellison, they’d almost certainly already be in his corner — and one can say the same for undecided Democrats too.

The distribution of those undecideds may also hold some importance. The poll divides the state into four areas — the Twin Cities counties, the suburban ring around them, and then southern and northern Minnesota. Ellison leads in the Twin Cities counties, but only by a 50/29 margin — horribly low for a man who spent more than a decade in Hennepin County politics. Wardlow leads everywhere else by wide margins: 51/27 in the metro suburbs, 49/36 in southern Minnesota, and 48/30 in northern Minnesota.

However, all four areas have double-digit undecideds. That may help Ellison in the Twin Cities if those voters come back home to him; Ellison’s politics is definitely more in their comfort zone, even if Ellison personally isn’t. That region has more votes to get, too, which might push Ellison closer to a win. It’s just as possible, though, that those voters might just sit out this race while casting votes in others as a protest against both candidates — and the fact that these progressive voters still haven’t come to terms with Ellison at this late date strongly suggests that many of them won’t at all in the end.

With two weeks to go until Election Day, anything is possible. At the very least, though, it appears that Ellison’s past is making this race far more competitive than it otherwise would have been.


FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Lynn says:

    I think the poll referred to was taken before the release of Ellison’s divorce records. The information contained in those records may help him. The fact that the woman who accused him of assault continues to refuse to allow anyone to see the video she claims to have may also help.

    BTW, Wardlow claims that he will be apolitical as AG; he has also said that he will fire those county attorneys who are Democrats.

  2. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Lynn: Clearly you misunderstand. We can see that he’s going to be apolitical because he’s eliminating all of the people who would bring political discord to the office.

  3. lynn says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: “We can see that he’s going to be apolitical … ”

    Good point – I should have understood that right away.

  4. Kari Q says:


    I think the poll referred to was taken before the release of Ellison’s divorce records. The information contained in those records may help him.

    They certainly made me feel more confident about him. Not that it matters directly since I’m not Minnesotan, but I imagine there must be people out there who feel the same way.

  5. Lynn says:

    @Kari Q:

    I voted for him in the primary with some reluctance, but am feeling more enthusiastic now. There have been a few letters to the editor along those same lines.

    Plus, I know people who know all the players in this drama, and they seem to have little hesitation in supporting him. The fact that Monahan has refused to show the video of the alleged assault to anyone renders her claims less credible, imo.

    And before the trolls jump in … it was not Dr. Ford’s charges against Justice Kavanaugh that caused me not to support him; it was his responses to those charges. Ellison has, imo, been quite measured and reasonable in his responses to Monahan.

  6. dale hedden says:

    This man needs to be cursed, oh, not in the Satanic fashion, but as Jesus taught his followers.
    The parable of the fig tree gives us grounds for undoing a state or condition or nature that belongs disassembled. This man is wrong. He is wrong in his essential nature, a disciple of a prophet that was no prophet by virtue of the test for prophet God gave in His revelation–The Scripture. He is wrong in his devotion to a system that must undermine our Constitution if it is true to itself.


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