Keith Ellison's run for Congress

After longtime Minneapolis Congressman Martin Sabo unexpectedly decided to call it quits last spring, he set off a wild scrum among ambitious DFLers. At the time, Ellison—an attorney in private practice and a second-term state legislator from the north side of Minneapolis—seemed unlikely to emerge on top. Sure, Ellison's solidly liberal credentials were well suited to the politics of the state's Fifth Congressional District. But he had next to no money in campaign coffers, virtually no television presence, and a heck of a lot of personal baggage—including a past affiliation with the Nation of Islam and a record of failing to pay attention to things like taxes, parking tickets, and basic paperwork. Then there were relentless attacks on Ellison. Some came from fellow DFLers, but the shrillest stuff originated on right-wing blogs such as Powerline and Minnesota Democrats Exposed. Ellison did little to counterattack the constant drumbeat, which, as it turned out, was a damn smart move. After he prevailed in the primary, Ellison coasted to an easy victory in the general election. And just like that, this once-obscure lefty lawyer had ascended to the national stage, becoming the first Muslim congressman in U.S. history and possessor of one of Congress's great sinecures.


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