MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The stakes could not be higher in Tuesday’s 5th Congressional District primary.

Because the district is so overwhelmingly Democratic, the person who wins Tuesday is the strong favorite to succeed Congressman Keith Ellison in the United States Congress.

Former Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, State Representative Ilhan Omar, who is the DFL-endorsed candidate and veteran State Senator Patricia Torres Ray are all progressive DFL candidates with similar views on major issues.

All were asked about the allegations against Congressman Keith Ellison. All three were cautious –Anderson Kelliher says she has known both Ellison and his accuser Karen Monahan, for years.

“The hardest part of this is that we have an election tomorrow where Keith’s name is on the ballot and we are not going to be able to resolve the issues around this because of the pain that Karen is feeling,” Andeson Keliher said.

Representative Omar voiced sympathy for Monahan.

“I think it is important that we do not politicize the pain of what she is going through,” Omar said.

State Senator Patricia Torres Ray says she has known Congressman Ellison for 16 years.

“It is difficult obviously to read news and I want to reserve comments right now,” Torres Ray said.

The organizers of the debate said they only included candidates who have previously held elective office – but also running is prominent Somali-American community activist Jamal Abdulahi, who is also an engineer.

“We have support beyond the East African American community as well our message of private sector experience is quite resonating with folks that live in the suburban side of the district,” Abdulahi said.

There is a fifth candidate in the race: Frank Drake, who in 2016 ran as a Republican against Congressman Ellison.

This is going to be a very tight race – while Omar as the DFL-endorsed candidate has been considered the front-runner, Anderson Kelliher has raised more money and is running a very aggressive campaign.

Esme Murphy

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