Cynthia Gonzalez just wanted to learn about who this man was.
Congressman Keith Ellison represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, essentially the metro area, meaning there wasn’t much reason for Gonzalez to know much about Ellison, his policies or beliefs.
Now, though, he’s running for Minnesota’s attorney general and is in the process of visiting some parts of the state he didn’t have much of influence in as a congressman. Saturday, that meant dropping by Faribault outside the Bluebird Cakery before hopping over to Northfield.
Gonzalez was there to find out what Ellison expected to do in the position.
“What I learned is that he’s interested in working with the community and interested in matters — I had a question regarding the immigration policies,” Gonzalez said. “That’s something I’m really interested in to hear from his position.”
Ellison is running against four others, including Northfield’s Matt Pelikan, for the DFL nomination for attorney general.
While speaking and meeting a group of Faribault residents for more than an hour and a half, Ellison answered questions ranging from why he decided to visit Faribault to different ways to fix income equity in the United States. His answers were connected, as he said the best way to reverse the tide in terms of income distribution are his grassroots politics and increasing activity at the polls.
That’s why he was in Rice County, he said, to encourage citizens to become more involved in local politics.
Ellison said Gonzalez’s comments stuck out the most, though. He said her concerns about the conflicts regarding immigration stuck with him, and after hearing her question about how he stood regarding immigration policy, he didn’t mince words.
He said the United States’ recent actions involving deportation and separating parents from their children at the Mexico border was a violation of U.S. and international law, before saying that the economies of southern Minnesota towns like Faribault would suffer drastically without the benefits of immigration.
The two did disagree on one point. Gonzalez raised concerns about finances and money controlling policy. She brought up how moved she was by the March for our Lives in Washington D.C., but was discouraged by the lack of tangible changes.
Ellison insisted that change is coming.
“I kind of feel like, while it might certainly feel that way and I understand why she might feel that way, everything in American history proves to us when everyone comes together they can make this place a better place,” Ellison said after the event. “That’s what we have to do now.”
That next step includes returning to Faribault and other southern Minnesota towns. Midway through the meeting, members of the area’s Somali community joined and asked if Ellison could return so more of their friends would be able to make it. Gonzalez agreed, saying while she appreciated Ellison visiting and answering questions, she viewed Saturday as more of an introduction. Next time, she says she has some more questions she would like answers to.
Ellison said he and his staff would start planning a return trip immediately.
“We’re going to come back,” he said. “It won’t take long and we’re going to come down here and we’re going to change this thing around. I believe we can use politics to change a community.”