Ellison vents about 2022 election during Detroit book signing event

In a book talk and TV interview, the Minnesota attorney general alleged that his 2022 political opponents encouraged voters "to teach me a lesson" that he shouldn’t have prosecuted the Chauvin murder trial.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison traveled to Detroit last weekend to promote the release of his new book, "Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police Violence." During his Friday interview with Fox 2 Detroit he alleged political opponents spend "massive amounts of money" in attack ads to try to make the point that "you don't prosecute a police officer, period." (Fox 2 screenshot)

Keith Ellison has called Minnesota his home for more than 30 years. But the former U.S. congressman, one-time Minnesota legislator and recently re-elected attorney general has his roots in Detroit, Michigan.

So it made sense that Ellison, 59, returned to the town he was born and raised last weekend to hold his first public event to promote the release of his new book, Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police Violence.

Published in May, the book allows Ellison to give readers an inside look into how he led the prosecution team in a successful conviction verdict of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.

In his Detroit appearances over the weekend — which included a book talk and signing and a local television news interview — Ellison discussed his impetus for writing Break the Wheel. But he also strayed into venting about his recent re-election bid, where he alleged that opponents of his campaign engaged in “scurrilous, racist” attack ads against him and contended the reason the 2022 re-election bid was much closer than his first election in 2018 was due to “a whole lot of [voters who] showed up to try to teach me a lesson” for his decision to prosecute Chauvin. This is despite the fact that Ellison’s 2022 opponent, Jim Schultz, had said numerous times on the campaign trail that he agreed with the Chauvin verdict and Ellison’s decision to prosecute the trial.

On Sunday, Ellison was a guest of the Church of the New Covenant not far from where he grew up. Brian Ellison, a pastor at the church and older brother to Keith, held a Q&A session with the Minnesota attorney general before a crowd of about 50, which included many family and friends and a handful of political dignitaries — including current Minnesota legislators Hodan Hassan and Mohamud Noor, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, and actor Hill Harper, who just announced on Monday he is running for U.S. Senate in Michigan.

From book talk to venting over Republican opponent

During the hour-long conversation, Ellison discussed the moments he wrote about in Break the Wheel — a phrase he said he borrowed from mid-20th century civil rights activist Bayard Rustin — starting with the morning after Floyd was killed while in police custody, his decision to take on the trial, and the “blowback” he received because of it.

“I had a lot of people who care for me, who had aspirations for my career, who said to me, ‘Look you should not take this case,’” Ellison told the audience, recounting the days leading up to his decision to take the Chauvin trial away from the Hennepin County attorney and prosecute the case himself.

“’You should tell the governor you won’t do it, because if you take this case and you win, the police federation is going to be mad at you, without regard to how guilty Derek Chauvin is. And if you take this case and you lose, the community is going to be mad at you.’”

Earlier that weekend, during an in-studio interview about his new book with Fox 2 News in Detroit, Ellison intimated that his political detractors tried to make his 2022 re-election bid about his decision to prosecute the Chauvin trial.

“In my last election I had to win,” Ellison told Fox 2 News host Lee Thomas. “I absolutely did. Not for my own sake, but because I didn’t want one prosecutor in America to think I can do justice and the right thing, or I can keep my job.”

“I did have folks spend massive amounts of money. They were like we don’t care how guilty Derek Chauvin is. You don’t prosecute a police officer, period. And they spent money to try to make their point. But we won anyway, because most Minnesotans, and most Americans, and certainly most people in Michigan and in Detroit certainly want equal justice under the law.”

‘Racial caste system’ and ‘MAGA backlash’

Back at the Church of the New Covenant book talk on Sunday, Ellison discussed with his brother whether there is a racial caste system in America, and what they termed a “MAGA backlash” that persists even after the Chauvin verdict. He then finished the talk with more on his successful 2022 re-election campaign.

“I only won by 20,000 votes the last [election],” Ellison said. “One of the things you are going to read in this book is that, look, I didn’t have any scandals. I wasn’t in any trouble. In fact, I helped lead a successful prosecution that had international ramifications.”

“[So] how did my opponent make up 80,000 votes on me?”

Ellison went on to allege that Republicans in Minnesota and beyond were politically attacking him during the 2022 campaign for leading the prosecution of Chauvin.

“They [were] running Willie Horton [-style] ads on me,” Ellison said. “They were running scurrilous, racist ads against me, and it was so bad … . And I won by a 100,000 votes the first time (in 2018), and only 20,000 votes the second time; and I got more votes (in 2022) than I got last time.”

“Which means a whole lot of people showed up to try to teach me a lesson.”

Ellison is holding another book talk and signing event on July 17 in Minneapolis, his first official promotional event for Break the Wheel in Minnesota.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.