a Democrat in Congress
Keith Ellison had a rocky start as an elected member of Congress. After Martin Sabo retired in 2006, Ellison won the DFL nomination for the 5th District seat on the fourth ballot. Congressman Sabo had backed another candidate.
As the DFL candidate in the general election in 2006, Ellison faced Republican Alan Fine and Independence Party candidate Tammy Lee, who each won 21 percent of the vote. Ellison won that election with 56 percent of the vote.
In 2008, when I ran for his Congressional seat, Ellison won by a more comfortable margin. He gained 71 percent of the vote this time, with Barb Davis White, the Republican candidate, winning 22 percent of the vote. As the Independence Party candidate, I had somewhat less than 7 percent of the total vote.
Two years later, in 2010, Ellison won reelection with 68 percent of the vote. The Republican candidate Joel Demos had 24 percent of the total vote. The Independence Party candidate that year, Tom Schrunk, had 3.3 percent of the vote, and an independent candidate, Lynn Torgerson, had 3.7 percent of the vote.
In 2012, Ellison won reelection with 74 percent of the vote running against a Republican candidate only. In 2014, his share of the vote was down to 71 percent of the vote. The Republican candidate had 24 percent of the vote and Independence Party member, Lee Bauer, 5.1 percent of the vote. Then, in 2016, Ellison won reelection with 69 percent of the vote against a Republican candidate, Frank Drake, and and Independent candidate, Dennis Schuler.
In summary, Ellison is entrenched in Congress in a solidly DFL district. What happened next, however, is quite remarkable.
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders suddenly recommended that Ellison become chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The idea gained broad support. However, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, was elected to that position in February 2017, with Ellison running a close second. Perez immediately made a motion to appoint Ellison deputy chair of the DNC. That recommendation was approved by a unanimous vote.
In summary, in 2017, Keith Ellison, a black running in an overwhelmingly white Congressional district and, for a time, the only Muslim in Congress, now occupies the second top position in the national Democratic Party. It is a stunning accomplishment. I say this as a former opponent for elective office.
now for my Republican connection
Curiously, I also have a personal connection with the chair of the Republican National Committee, appointed after Donald Trump became president. She is Ronna Romney McDaniel, formerly head of the Michigan Republican Party. I have a certain connection to her although I have never met Ms. McDaniel.
I knew Ronna McDaniel’s father, Scott Romney, many years ago. Being about the same age, we went to summer camp together in northern Ontario in 1953 and, in 1956, traveled together by bus several times a week from Bloomfield Hills to Cass Technical High School in downtown Detroit to take night classes in welding and housewiring. My father had been Scott’s father’s assistant at American Motors. Scott stayed in Michigan while I moved to Minnesota.
Scott’s younger brother, Mitt, became the head of Bain Capital in Massachusetts, where he was later elected governor. Then, in 2012, he was the Republican candidate for President of the United States. Mitt Romney, of course, lost the election to Barack Obama.
In summary, in a nation of more than 300 million persons, it’s still possible to rub shoulders with top political figures, or persons close to them, if you’re in the right place at the right time.