Domestic abuse allegations against Rep. Keith Ellison are creating headaches not only for his campaign but also for the candidacies of two fellow Democrats, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith.
Both Minnesota Democrats are being accused of hypocrisy for taking a hard line on the allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh while going easy on the claims against Mr. Ellison leveled more than a month ago by his ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan.
State Sen. Karin Housley, a Republican who is running against the newly appointed Ms. Smith in the November special election, last weekend called out “my opponent’s continued hypocrisy” on the accusations.
“For Tina Smith to call for a ‘full and thorough investigation’ into the allegations made against Brett Kavanaugh but openly campaign with her friend Keith Ellison is hypocritical, offensive and just plain wrong,” Ms. Housley said in a statement.
The Housley campaign is running a digital ad showcasing Ms. Smith’s ties to Mr. Ellison, the Democratic National Committee deputy chairman.
“According to Tina Smith, Keith Ellison is a ‘long-time friend,’ ‘progressive champion’ and a ‘voice for the vulnerable’ whose support ‘means so much,’” the ad says.
“It’s no secret the two are political allies and mouthpieces for the radical left — but as Tina Smith claims to be a ‘champion’ for women, why won’t she speak out on the domestic abuse allegations leveled at Keith Ellison?” the ad says.
Ms. Smith has stood by the Democratic congressman as he runs for Minnesota attorney general. She told WCCO-TV in Minneapolis that she supports him and noted that he has repeatedly denied the charges.
Ms. Monahan said she suffered “emotional and physical abuse” during their long-term relationship. In one incident, she said, he dragged her off a bed and screamed obscenities. Mr. Ellison has said that never happened.
“I appreciate there are important allegations around congressman Ellison, and it’s also really important to realize and to appreciate that congressman Ellison categorically denies these,” Ms. Smith said in the interview.
Mr. Kavanaugh said last week, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation,” referring to the charge by Christine Blasey Ford that he pinned her down and groped her 36 years ago while they were in high school. He reiterates that denial in his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee at a Thursday hearing about the accusation.
Republicans have mocked the “independent” investigation into the Monahan claims against Mr. Ellison, which is being run by Susan Ellingstad, a law partner of Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party attorney Charlie Nauen, The Associated Press reported.
With pressure building against him, Mr. Ellison announced Wednesday that he would ask the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations against him. “I am taking this step now because I am innocent and eager to see the entire matter resolved,” he said.
The announcement was met with skepticism from Ms. Monahan, who said “he is well aware he will be out of Congress before it is complete,” but he “makes himself look good before the election.”
“With the House of Representatives soon adjourning and Keith Ellison leaving Congress at the end of the year, the call for a congressional ethics investigation is nothing more than political cover — and Minnesotans see right through it,” Ms. Housley said.
Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Jim Newberger, who is challenging Ms. Klobuchar’s re-election bid, tweeted that his opponent has repeatedly called for an “FBI investigation regarding Brett Kavanaugh.”
“Where is her call for further action regarding Keith Ellison’s repeated reports of abuse, which are now supported by medical records??” he asked, adding “#Hypocrisy.”
The Ellison issue may not be enough to drag down Ms. Klobuchar, who holds a double-digit lead, but Ms. Housley is gaining on Ms. Smith, who was appointed to replace Democratic Sen. Al Franken in December. Mr. Franken stepped down because of a sexual misconduct scandal.
A Minnesota Star Tribune/Minnesota Public Radio poll released last week found Ms. Smith leading Ms. Housley by 44 percent to 37 percent.
Ms. Klobuchar has distanced herself from Mr. Ellison, saying in a Sept. 2 interview on “Meet the Press” that “I think it’s being reviewed” and that she would “campaign with our ticket when the time comes.”
“He hasn’t asked me to campaign with him,” Ms. Klobuchar added.
Former state Rep. Doug Wardlow, Mr. Ellison’s opponent for attorney general, has hammered the congressman over the allegations.
He released an ad last week highlighting domestic abuse allegations made by Ms. Monahan and Amy Alexander, who accused him of losing his temper, pushing her and breaking her screen door in 2005, which he has denied.
“Ellison has been accused of domestic violence by multiple women,” the Wardlow ad says. “Even the National Organization for Women has called for Ellison to end his campaign.”
At Friday’s campaign debate, Mr. Ellison noted that he won a restraining order in 2006 against Ms. Alexander and that Ms. Monahan’s allegations were made two days before the Aug. 14 primary.