Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison was grilled Friday during a televised debate over allegations of domestic abuse, an issue that has dogged his run for Minnesota attorney general despite drawing scant national coverage.
Republican candidate Doug Wardlow cited the accounts by Amy Alexander and Karen Monahan, both of whom have accused Mr. Ellison of becoming physical after losing his temper, which he has denied.
“I think two credible, strong allegations of domestic abuse is enough,” said Mr. Wardlow, prompting Mr. Ellison to counter, “There’s not two. There’s zero.”
Mr. Ellison said he had to take out a restraining order in 2006 against Ms. Alexander, adding she was ordered to “stop making falsehoods against me and to not contact me at all,” and that Ms. Monahan waited until last month to make her allegations, two years after he broke up with her.
“Two days before the primary, she made these allegations. They are not true,” said Mr. Ellison during the debate on Twin Cities PBS. “I’ve said they are not true. I’ve answered questions and gone on Esme Murphy [on WCCO-TV] and others to make these points clear.”
Mr. Wardlow pointed to the 2017 medical record posted by Ms. Monahan in which she named Mr. Ellison and reported “emotional and physical abuse,” but the congressman said she was already “putting together” the allegations.
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“Let me tell you, that record was made a year after we broke up, and at a time when she was still, when she was essentially putting together the allegations that she made two days before the [primary],” he said.
Mr. Ellison referred to the “independent investigation” into the Monahan claims, but Mr. Wardlow scoffed, noting that the probe is being conducted by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. The DFL announced that it would investigate over a month ago but has released nothing since.
“It’s not an independent investigation. It’s [being done] by your friends and fellow party members,” said Mr. Wardlow. “That’s not an independent investigation.”
Mr. Ellison, who serves as Democratic National Committee deputy chair, holds a slim 41-36 percent lead over Mr. Wardlow, a former state representative, according to a Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll released Thursday.
The debate’s moderators also quizzed Mr. Ellison, referring to a poll showing 40 percent of those surveyed said that the abuse allegations would be a factor in their vote for attorney general.
Asked why he declined to participate in a meeting with Ms. Monahan and investigators, as she has alleged, Mr. Ellison said, “We broke up two years ago for a reason.”
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“I don’t want to be in the relationship. And therefore I left the relationship,” Mr. Ellison said. “So to get back in touch with her again is not something I’m interested in doing. I’ve met somebody new. I’m trying to pursue my life and move on.”
The Monahan allegations have rekindled interest in the largely forgotten Alexander episode. Mr. Ellison said Ms. Alexander “was harassing me,” and noted that a judge refused to grant her request for a restraining order in November 2006.
Last month, however, Crystal City council member Jeff Kolb posted a 911 call made on May 16, 2005, that lent credence to her claim that she called the police after he pushed her and broke her screen door.
The 911 report said the caller, whose name was redacted, claimed to have been “aslt’d by Ellison(Ke).” Mr. Kolb said his record searches showed Ms. Alexander lived at that address in 2005.
Can Mr. Ellison rule out any further allegations? “In this political environment, I don’t know what somebody might cook up,” he said.
“But I can tell you that there is absolutely nobody that I am aware of who’s threatening or suggesting or who’s ever made a prior allegation,” he said.