Chris Fields: "My uniform has been off for barely a year, and now I'm a lying scumbag? C'mon"

Fields: "I went about this campaign with the utmost integrity."
Fields: "I went about this campaign with the utmost integrity."

During a debate yesterday, Congressman Keith Ellison created national waves by calling his Republican opponent, Chris Fields, a "lowlife scumbag."

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City Pages connected with Fields following the rancorous debate. Regarding the overheated "scumbag" exchange, he said, "When I say that Congressman Ellison is unable to have a conversation with somebody he disagrees with without vilifying him, the debate is proof positive."

After 21 years as a Marine, Fields retired from the military last year. "My uniform has been off for barely a year, and now I'm a lying scumbag just because I decided to put a 'R' before my name? C'mon," he said.

Personal attacks aside, Fields characterized Ellison's approach during the debate as emblematic of how he's handled the whole campaign. "It's like that Barack Obama line," he said. "When you can't beat someone on the issues, make it about small things."

One issue Fields has dwelled on is state of North Minneapolis, in particular the area's lack of economic investment and black-white umemployment gap. Fields thinks Ellison is neglecting those problems and spending too much time on national and international issues.

"What I've said all along is that things are not getting better [on the Northside] because we have a congressman focused on overseas issues and not focused on the 5th [Congressional District]," Fields said. "Congressman Ellison has taken to giving us a lecture -- because the 5th is part of the U.S. and the U.S. is part of the world, he's gotta be up to speed and focus on these other parts of the world... [but] the need is at home."

"I have a domestic agenda -- that's the need right now," Fields said.

But Ellison supporters argue that Fields is more focused on tearing Keith down than he is on building up the Northside. For instance, in the "Issues" section of his website, Fields discusses the federal budget, taxes, healthcare, energy, and even Israel, but nowhere does he mention a plan to revitalize north Minneapolis. Ellison, on the other hand, cites his long history of living and working on behalf of the Northside, and argues that the systemic problems confronting the area won't be solved as easily as Fields seems to think they can be.

Fields says he hopes the rest of the campaign, including one last debate with Ellison next Tuesday at the Minneapolis Urban League, will center on the issues, not failed marriages. But yesterday's Ellison meltdown provided him with an opening to draw Keith's character into question.

"I look at the other congressional races out there -- do you see John Kline acting like that? You don't see Erik Paulsen acting like that," Fields said. "They're in tougher districts than I am, so why [talk like that]? There's something wrong here."

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