Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, is stepping away from Washington to run for Minnesota State Attorney General because he believes he can make a greater impact on issues like prison reform and gun laws locally and challenge some of the policies of Donald Trump—like rolling back the Affordable Care Act and the Muslim ban—locally.
“I want to revolutionize this office,” said Ellison in an exclusive interview with TheHub.News. “Trump said he was not going to defend the Affordable Care Act in court. So who is going to defend it? State attorney generals. The Muslim ban? Who’s been fighting and winning cases throughout the country? State attorney generals. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to be in that fight right there.”
Ellison made his announcement ahead of the filing deadline on June 5, a day after current Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced she was running for governor. Swanson, also a Democrat, was the first woman attorney general for the state. She now looks to become the first woman governor. The Minnesota primaries are August 14.
In addition to tackling Trump, Ellison will also be paying attention to the targeting of blacks during drug stings in Minnesota. From January to May, undercover officers made more than 100 arrests, including 47 for felony sale of marijuana. Of the 47 felony marijuana arrests, 46 were of black men, many of whom were also poor and homeless and dealing a gram or two just to get by.
“All over the country, we are throwing people in jail for something (marijuana) that is legal in many states,” said Rep. Ellison, who is the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee. “It’s a tool used for social control. And it has to stop.”
Political service seems to run in the Ellison family. His ex-wife, Kim, won a seat on the local school board. And this year, son Jeremiah recently won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council representing Ward 5. Jeremiah has been an activist against police misconduct.
At a protest rally in 2015, following the police killing of Jamar Clark—a 24-year-old black man who was unarmed when he was shot in the head by Minneapolis police—an officer aimed a rifle at Ellison’s son Jeremiah. The image, which went viral, shows Jeremiah Ellison with his hands in the air.
“I will be fighting for all types of injustices,” said Ellison in a phone interview. “We all have a role to play. My next move is winning this primary for attorney general on August 14.”