DNC official Keith Ellison running for Minnesota AG, may step down from party role

Democratic National Committee deputy Rep. Keith Ellison announced Tuesday that he’s running for Minnesota attorney general, a move that will likely require him to leave his party post as well as Congress.

The firebrand lawmaker announced his candidacy on Twitter as he filed papers for his campaign.

“I am announcing my candidacy to be the People’s Lawyer, and to protect and defend all Minnesotans as your next Attorney General,” Ellison tweeted.

The decision followed a last-minute political shift in his home state of Minnesota, as incumbent Lori Swanson jumped into the governor's race on Monday. This opened the door for Ellison.

It’s not clear whether Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, will resign his House seat early or retire at the end of his current term, if he advances past the primary. However, he likely will need to resign his post with the national party, where he is vice chairman.

Fox News has reached out to Ellison’s office for clarification on his plans with regard to the DNC.

A recent Politico report suggested Ellison might have been looking for a way out of the DNC. The report noted he’s been “chafing” in his role as deputy to Tom Perez, who beat him for the chairmanship in party elections.

The same article also noted that he may be attracted to the role state attorneys general have had taking on various Trump  administration policies.

Ellison seemed to hint at those ambitions in his full statement posted to Twitter.

“No one – not even a President – is above the law,” he said, citing fights against immigration and environmental policy decisions.

Ellison is in his sixth term representing a reliably Democratic Minneapolis-area seat. He’ll face competition, though, in the state attorney general primary. According to The Star Tribune, he faces former Attorney General Mike Hatch, state Rep. Debra Hilstrom and Matt Pelikan, an attorney.

Republicans, meanwhile, were gloating in the run-up to Ellison’s candidacy announcement. An overnight Republican National Committee email blast questioned whether the decision means Ellison has “strong doubts about Democrats’ ability to take back the House this fall.” The email also noted Ellison represents the progressive and Bernie Sanders wing of the party and questioned whether those activists will “feel they’ve lost a seat at the table,” causing more headaches for Perez.

Ellison has been controversial in his own right. Earlier this year, he faced scrutiny after Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan claimed Ellison had visited him in Farrakhan's Washington, D.C. office. Ellison maintained that he has not met with or spoken to the anti-Semitic minister since 2013.

"I do not have and have never had a relationship with Mr. Farrakhan, but I have been in the same room as him,” he wrote on Medium.

 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.