Keith Ellison on Chris Fields: "He should be ashamed of himself" [INTERVIEW PART 1]
Ellison: "I don't believe in the concept of a safe seat."
Yesterday, City Pages connected with U.S. Representative Keith Ellison for a long conversation.
The interview touched upon everything from what it's like for Keith to buy cereal at the North Side Cub Foods to the relationship between free speech and "incitement."
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We're running the interview in four parts. Today, we're publishing Ellison's thoughts on his reelection campaign and the Republican challenging him this fall for his Fifth Congressional District seat, Chris Fields. Tomorrow's post features Keith going in-depth about north Minneapolis's problems and how he plans to continue addressing them. Thursday is Keith on the Middle East and free speech, and we'll wrap it up on Friday with Ellison on his overarching political philosophy and future aspirations.
Keith's language has been edited in order to make his logical flow clearer to readers, but the substance of his remarks is all his. Part one of our interview is after the jump.
-- On whether his congressional seat is "in the bag" --
I don't believe in the concept of a safe seat. Oberstar got beat in the Eighth, so we campaign hard. If you look at the primary, I got more votes than any other candidate in the MNGOP or Democratic Party. We campaign as hard as we can. We've also got a lot of interest on the ballot -- [defeating] voter ID and the marriage amendment, so those are two things that [keep me] running like there's no tomorrow.
I believe it's disrespectful to the electorate to act as though you've got it in the bag. We have an apartment [resident outreach] program, a person who does nothing but that. We have a disability director -- if you have a disability, whether it's blindness or some sort of developmental issue, we believe they're an important part of the electorate too.
-- On what he respects about Chris Fields --
I think Chris publicly came out against indefinite detention -- I agree with him about that. I respect Chris's military service. He said we should get troops out of Afghanistan and I agree with that too. We aren't diametrically opposed on every single thing.
-- On Fields's criticism that he hasn't done enough to alleviate poverty and violence in north Minneapolis, and what he's done to address those issues --
I've [set up] numerous job fairs, three just this year alone. Helping to pass Obamacare, expanded health care for everyone -- we have a high percentage of uninsured, a higher concentration on the North Side, and [Obamacare] is going to help a lot of people.
We've expanded Medicare and clinics. [As far as] specific programs, there's the Northside Achievement Zone, I got $400,000 for Summit Academy, [it does] workforce training. The Northside Economic Opportunity Network -- got them $150,000 to help supplement their small business revolving loan zone. Youth violence prevention, $250,000, a gunshot detection system. Squad cars for the police, got $700,000 for them.
And here's the other thing -- I live in north Minneapolis. All four of my children grew up there, went to parks and schools there. Does Chris even know how to find it? Has he walked through it? I can assure you that the people in north Minneapolis know they got a very strong, consistent, reliable advocate in me, and they don't even know who he is. So he can sit back and critique all he wants to. Unemployment and foreclosure -- he says that I haven't fixed it all; I'm saying he hasn't even showed up or anything.
He's got a lot of nerve. Here's the deal -- if you want to just blame me for for the problems of the North Side... does he realize there are churches and mosques that work all the time to alleviate poverty? Does he realize the Minneapolis City Council is working hard? He wants to blame all the problems on the North Side on me? Small-business owners -- we're all trying to make the neighborhood better. We could use help but he doesn't want to give it.
Have you looked at a zoning map [from then]? It identifies north Minneapolis as a 'negro slum.' There's a reason. At one time, it wasn't that long ago -- the NAACP and Legal Aid sued the city of Minneapolis because of decades of racial steering. The city said, 'you're right, we did it, not us, but people who used to represent this city engaged in that.' And that's how we have Heritage Park today.
You know who else doesn't know [about the zoning map]? Chris Fields. Because he has no part in doing good for north Minneapolis. I guarantee you he could walk into the Cub on Broadway and nobody would stop and ask him a thing. You try following me in there and see how long it takes to get Cheerios and a gallon of milk.
I have to admit, nothing Chris Fields says bothers me, but it does get under my skin when he starts saying I haven't done anything for the North Side. It's incredible that somebody who has never done anything for the North Side can attack somebody who has dedicated their whole life to it. The statistics are imbalanced and when we haven't achieved racial justice, I'm a failure.
This man [i.e., Fields] is a 21-year military veteran. He could come to north Minneapolis and give mentoring and offer leadership, and by the way, there's at least two guys who have done just that -- Louis King, he works for Summit Academy, and Sherman Patterson, who works for the mayor and is career military -- two black men who have used their backgrounds to help people, and all Chris can do is tear me down.
He's literally attacking everybody on the North Side. He wants to get after me, but I'm not the only person on the North Side. The City Council, Legislature, school board, whole host of faith groups, businesses, social leaders -- he's saying nothing about them doing anything. I say shame on him, he should be ashamed of himself to say something like that.
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