Jesse Jackson campaigns for Keith Ellison in Minneapolisby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
The Rev. Jesse Jackson rallied support for DFLer Keith Ellison's campaign for the 5th Congressional District seat in Minneapolis Friday afternoon. Jackson praised Ellison and helped him sign up campaign volunteers and register voters. Jackson also helped Ellison address questions about his past.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The rally for Keith Ellison was held in the middle of a field at a north Minneapolis park. In the sweltering heat and oppressive humidity, about 100 supporters came out to support Ellison and cheer for Jesse Jackson.
Ellison, who won the DFL endorsement, still faces challenges in the party primary from former state senator Ember Reichgott Junge, former DFL Party Chair Mike Erlandson and Minneapolis city council member Paul Ostrow. Ellison is also facing questions and criticism about his past relationship with the Nation of Islam. Ellison has admitted to supporting some of the views of Nation leader Louis Farrakhan, but he has distanced himself from Farrakhan's anti-Semitic and anti-gay statements.
Ellison, who once attended an appearance by controversial Nation of Islam Minister Khalid Muhammad, didn't approach the subject at the rally, but the Rev. Jerry McAfee did.
"So I came to say, yeah, Keith was at that meeting. Yes, I was at that meeting. But he nor I agreed with anything that was in any nature connected to anything that was racist and devilish," he said.
Ellison did not address his relationship with the Nation of Islam. He spoke out against the war in Iraq, called for universal healthcare and vowed to make medicare work better for seniors. Ellison also spoke in favor of renewable energy and expressed a desire to maintain voting rights for all citizens.
"But the main thing we are going to Washington to do is to argue that we are all better off together than apart. That everybody matters. We have to come together," he said. "Black, white, brown, yellow. We have to come together as one people. Jewish, Christian, Muslim. We have to come together, y'all."
Ellison then introduced Jackson, who invoked the names of the state's DFL canon: Humphrey, Mondale and Wellstone - and told them that Ellison represents the spirit of those leaders.
"We need an enlightened voice in the Congress. And that's what Keith represents - voice of enlightenment," he said. "Today, we find ourselves trapped in energy exploitation, price gouging and greed."
Jackson said it is morally wrong that oil companies benefit from tax breaks, while also reporting millions in profits.
Following the rally, Ellison expressed his gratitude for Jackson's campaign help.
"Rev. Jackson embodies the civil rights spirit of Humphrey, Mondale, Wellstone, Martin Luther King, more than anyone I know. So to have him here is a tremendous honor for me and it sends a message out there that this is an inclusive campaign, a campaign that includes everyone," he said.
Jackson also fielded questions about Ellison's past. Jackson responded by saying both Ellison and voters should look forward.
"We all have scars on our bodies. But from our scars we are redeemed. We are healed by our stripes. And we grow and we get better. And so I would urge those who will vote for Keith to go forth with their hopes and not back by their fears," he said.
Jackson also announced that a chapter of his Rainbow Coalition will be formed in Minneapolis. The chapter will be lead by the Rev. McAfee