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Bernie Sanders campaigns in Rochester to energize Ellison's push for attorney general

Ellison is seen to be in a tight race with GOP challenger Jim Schultz.

Senator Bernie Sanders Campaigns for Keith Ellison
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Rochester Community and Technical College for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is up for reelection next month.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — With signs that his re-election bid for attorney general is neck and neck, Keith Ellison stumped alongside Democratic senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in Rochester on Friday morning.

Speaking in front of a semicircle of about 300 supporters at the Rochester Regional Sports Center, Sanders called Ellison "one of the leaders in this country" who stands up for working families and the middle class and has the "guts" to take on the special interests.

Ellison served in the U.S. House for 12 years while Sanders served in the Senate before Ellison was elected Minnesota's attorney general in 2018.

"Millions of people from Vermont to Minnesota and all over the country are going to work and earning starvation wages," Sanders said. "And Keith understood, as I did and you do, you got to raise the minimum wage to a living wage."

Sanders has headlined rallies over the past two days to deliver a boost to Ellison's campaign. Polls show that of the statewide races, the race for attorney general is the closest.

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Sanders, who energized and galvanized the left during the past two presidential election bids, stumped for Ellison in Duluth on Thursday night before coming to Rochester and then proceeding to Minneapolis.

Ellison is in a tight race with Republican Jim Schultz, a private-sector attorney. Ellison had a tiny lead over Schultz among likely Minnesota voters, 46% to 45%, according to a Sept. 18, 2022, KARE 11/Star Tribune/MPR News Minnesota Poll. About 9% of those polled were undecided.

Voters head to the polls on Nov. 8, but mail-in voting has already begun in Minnesota.

Senator Bernie Sanders Campaigns for Keith Ellison
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Rochester Community and Technical College for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is up for reelection next month.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

With his trademark thrusts of his finger, Sanders called the GOP position on abortion the "height of hypocrisy." Republicans, he said, advocate for small government and for letting "the American people do what they want to do, except if you are a woman having to make one of the most personal decision in your life."

Without naming him, Sanders noted that Ellison's opponent referred to Ellison as "extreme." Sanders argued that Republicans were guilty of projection.

"Let me talk about what is extreme," Sanders said. "Extreme is when you have an economy in the United States where the richest people are becoming phenomenally richer, while working people are seeing a decline in their standard of living. That's really extreme."

Before introducing Sanders, Ellison addressed head-on the issue that is viewed as his biggest vulnerability: crime. He said there were 200 mass shootings in the past 300 days.

"Anybody running around talking about crime and not talking about dealing with gun safety isn't trying to have a serious conversation with you," he said.

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Public safety means police and prosecutors, but it also means "strong neighborhoods, good schools, and neighbors working together," Ellison said.

The Minnesota GOP hasn’t won statewide electoral office since 2006. The last Republican to do so was Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The DFL has currently won 22 consecutive statewide elections in Minnesota since 2008.

Ellison is at risk of ending the GOP’s electoral drought. And one of his biggest vulnerabilities is crime. Last month, two dozen Minnesota county sheriffs announced they were backing Schultz for attorney general.

Senator Bernie Sanders Campaigns for Keith Ellison
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is up for reelection next month, arrives for a campaign event Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Rochester Community and Technical College. The event also featured U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Ellison is a former deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee and one-time leader of the progressive wing of his party in Washington.

After the killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and the eruption of protests that followed, Ellison backed a measure to replace the city’s police department with a “Department of Public Safety” and to eliminate minimum staffing requirements. The measure was rejected by Minneapolis voters last year.

Although supporters of the measure insisted that it was not designed to “defund the police,” moderate Republicans, along with DFL Gov. Tim Walz, opposed the measure.

In an ABC News/Ipsos poll this summer, the GOP held an 11-point advantage over Democrats on crime, a concern that ranked higher than inflation, gas prices or the economy.

Another sign of the challenging terrain Democrats face on the issue was when Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar almost lost her Minneapolis-based House primary to a pro-police challenger. She had also supported the measure of creating a Department of Public Safety.

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In a statement issued by the Schultz campaign this morning, it said it was "no surprise" that Ellison was campaigning with "avowed socialist Bernie Sanders."

"Ellison has proven he is a political activist masquerading as Attorney General. Time and time again, he has put the whims of the far left ahead of the safety and security of Minnesotans and that is an absolute disgrace."

Senator Bernie Sanders Campaigns for Keith Ellison
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is up for reelection next month, embrace during a campaign event Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Rochester Community and Technical College.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Senator Bernie Sanders Campaigns for Keith Ellison
Supporters cheer during a campaign event Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, at Rochester Community and Technical College for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is up for reelection next month. The event also featured U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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