ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Democrats are cautiously standing by Rep. Keith Ellison amid allegations from an ex-girlfriend that he once physically abused her, as the state’s party chairman said Thursday he supported Ellison “at this point.”
Ellison won a crowded primary for attorney general just days after the accusation surfaced. Karen Monahan said Ellison dragged her off a bed by her feet while screaming. Ellison has called that allegation false and said he still plans to run in November.
The episode has unsettled Democrats nationally and in Minnesota, where they’d rather focus on a pivotal midterm election where the governor’s office, two U.S. Senate seats, four competitive congressional districts and control of the state House are up for grabs.
“This is a developing story, and we don’t know where it’s going,” Democratic-Farmer-Labor party chairman Ken Martin said. “Keith is our nominee. We stand with Keith at this point.”
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Martin said the party takes the allegations seriously and has a team of lawyers looking into the accusations. He said the investigation includes text messages that Monahan and Ellison exchanged in the days and months leading up to his attorney general campaign launch in June.
His comments come just a day after Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez also said the party is investigating the allegations. Ellison is a deputy chairman with the national party.
A Thursday appearance at the state Capitol had initially been scheduled as a “unity rally” for Democratic candidates, and Ellison was expected to attend. But that was shelved in favor of a smaller crowd focused on the governor’s race, with outdoing Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton throwing his support behind U.S. Rep. Tim Walz after he won the primary on Tuesday.
Dayton said the allegations are serious but that he still supported him over the GOP’s endorsed candidate, Doug Wardlow.
“I have no reservations about saying that Keith Ellison will be a vastly superior candidate,” Dayton said.
Ellison has strenuously denied the allegations, saying a supposed video of the incident does not exist “because I never behaved in this way.” Though organizations like the National Organization for Women and women’s rights group Ultraviolet have called on Ellison to exit the race, few prominent Democrats have followed suit.
Minnesota Democrats would be left with few options to replace Ellison on the ballot if he leaves the race. State law only allows political parties to replace candidates if they die, become seriously ill or are declared ineligible for the election.