Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis, retained his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday when voters re-elected him for a fourth term. He has served the district since 2006.
The representative of Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District defeated Republican challenger Chris Fields with approximately 65 percent of the total votes. The Associated Press called the race around 9:20 p.m.
“It’s a good night for Minnesota, it’s a good night for America,” said Ellison at the DFL election night party at Crowne Plaza Riverfront in St. Paul.
The AP also called early races for Rep. Erik Paulsen, who represents the state’s 3rd Congressional District, and Betty McCullom, who represents the 4th.
“Elections are over and now it’s time to get back to work,” Ellison said.
His opponent, Fields, said he knew his chances of winning were slim from the beginning based on the district’s voting history. According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, the district traditionally leans heavily Democratic.
“Nobody expected much out of this campaign,” Fields said. “I just hope some people look at the election’s results and say, ‘Holy cow, these guys were serious.’
As a Republican candidate from the left-leaning district, Fields said he hoped for “record-breaking performance” at Tuesday’s polls.
“I understand that the Republican Party in this district doesn’t have a very good reputation,” Fields said. “But once we started talking to people, we saw them turn in our direction and give us a fair shot.”
The candidates, who often sparred in heated debates, both agreed the road to Election Day wasn’t smooth.
“Chris’ campaign has been meaner than races in the past,” Ellison said.
Ellison, who became the district’s first African-American representative when elected, said he believed his Muslim religion was a target for the Fields campaign.
“Being attacked for my religion never bothered me before,” Ellison said. “This time around though, it was a little meaner.”
Candidates debated three times prior to the election — the third of which raised the most controversy with name-calling and “low-blows.”
Fields said he considered Ellisons’ debate performance the “worst in the state’s history, and I just fundamentally believe the people [of the 5th District] deserve better than that.”
Many University of Minnesota students praised Ellison at the polls Tuesday. Students cited tuition costs as their primary concern for the district.
“It’d be nice for college affordability to be addressed,” said material science senior Zach Zadow.
Epidemiology graduate student Megan Slater said she voted for Ellison because she hopes he can address issues central to campus life.
“I hope Ellison addresses housing, tuition and anything that benefits students,” she said.
Ellison said he plans to begin his new term by addressing the issues of infrastructure improvements and college affordability.
“We’ve got to make sure that the University doors stay open,” Ellison said. “That means we have to reduce the cost of debt.”
He said he wants to return to the day where students could work their way through college with a part-time job, though “that’s nearly impossible today.”
“We have to make college more affordable by promoting loan forgiveness,” Ellison said. “I plan to work creatively with the University to hold tuition down.”
In his most recent term, Ellison served on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. He has formerly served on the House Judiciary Committee and House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, previously told the Minnesota Daily that Ellison’s efforts in Washington stand out.
“He truly is a rising star,” Jacobs said.
Students said public safety, transportation and social issues were things they most want to see Ellison address.
“Increasing [transportation] would allow more housing options for students,” communications studies senior Brittney Kruchten said.
In addition to looking at his track record in Washington, students said they based their voting decisions on the “platforms Ellison stands behind.”
“I’m voting for Ellison because I’d like to see a leader from our district that is ‘vote no’ on both amendments,” said mechanical engineering junior Mattie Buezis.
At the election party, Ellison addressed the amendments and said, “I firmly believe love conquers all. I firmly believe that in every cell of my body.”