Fifth-District rivals differ on debating vs. door-knocking
By Charles Hallman
With two weeks remaining before Election Day, have the voters in the Fifth District congressional campaign received enough information from the two main candidates to make an informed choice? In addition to many other disagreements, the two candidates do not agree on this either.
An October 18 debate aired on KFAI Radio between three-term Democrat incumbent Keith Ellison and Republican challenger Chris Fields, which station staff described as “a spirited and feisty” exchange, turned about halfway through into a brief name-calling exchange between the two men. “I acted beneath my personal standard as a public official, and I apologize,” said Congressman Ellison in a subsequent released statement.
The MSR contacted both candidates to comment on that and their campaigns in the days leading up to the November 6 general election. We spoke to both of them in separate phone interviews.
“Every time you have a conversation with Congressman Ellison, it turns into a circus show,” said Fields when asked to comment on the broadcast debate. “That is not what the people need or want right now,” he added.
“I’ve talked about my accomplishments over the years,” said Ellison.
Fields also accused his opponent of avoiding debating him, especially in North Minneapolis. “If the sitting congressman wants to have a debate in North Minneapolis, I know he can make that happen,” noted Fields, “and we’re happy to make it happen.”
An Ellison spokesperson told the MSR that three debates have been held thus far. “We’ve had plenty of debates,” believes the congressman. “I’m trying to reach out to voters [in the Fifth District] as much as I can. I don’t have time to spend with [Fields].”
Fields admitted that he’s “not at all” happy with the debate format, saying he’d prefer a town hall debate format on the North Side. The GOP challenger also expressed disappointment upon hearing that a scheduled October 23 debate at the Minneapolis Urban League’s Northside headquarters has been changed to separate interviews with a local newspaper.
“Congressman Ellison knows that side by side he can not defend his record,” Fields said. “He’s vastly afraid of having this debate up there in North Minneapolis. He denies [voters] the opportunity to see both candidates side by side and hear from both candidates what their vision is for the future.
“That’s the place that needs the most help in the Fifth District. Congressman Ellison does not want to be held accountable for the votes he has taken and the policies that he have supported,” said Fields.
Ellison, who is running for a fourth term in Congress, said that his opponent “has misrepresented my record.”
Finally, the two candidates offered their forecast for the remaining two weeks of their respective campaigns. The Fifth District voters “can see a clear contrast” between himself and Ellison, states Fields. “I’m fighting for everyday working people, minority communities, and those most vulnerable among us,” he said. “I have a positive agenda for the Fifth District and North Minneapolis.”
“We are going to keep calling and knocking,” said Ellison. “We’ve knocked on the doors of 520,000 people. We will continue to talk to all the people we can and answer questions. The real question is where we really have to go to the restoration for middle-class and working people.”
Information from the Twin Cities Daily Planet was used in this report.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to [email protected]