Election 2018: Attorney General

I’m just going to leap into this one, although we’ve got a bit over a month before Election Day, and there might be further developments. This is going to be a very long post.

Also, I was almost done with this post and then lost most of it due to a WordPress glitch. I just want to share that because I AM STILL SUPER MAD ABOUT IT.

A picture of an adorable fuzzy duckling, swimming in the water.



Three candidates are running:

Doug Wardlow (GOP)
Keith Ellison (DFL)
Noah M. Johnson (Grassroots/Legalize Cannabis)

In looking for info on Noah Johnson, I discovered that all three candidates were invited to the TPT Almanac debate on Friday, 9/21. You can watch it in its entirety here.

Doug Wardlow (GOP)

Doug is doing his absolute damnedest to shove his entire record into a dark closet with big signs on it saying “NOTHING TO SEE HERE!” and run as a moderate. “I will stand up and fight for all Minnesotans” he said about 15 times during the TPT debate, assuring us he doesn’t care if you’re “gay or straight, black or white, or … what have you.”

His website is hilariously content-free. He has a page of “Policies” that’s a bunch of captioned pictures. Usually a page like this links to pages with more detail on his policy plans, but here, clicking just gets you a larger picture. So, to save you the click, here are the policies that Doug Wardlow will fight for:

  • Protect Minnesota Families
  • Stand With Law Enforcement
  • Minnesota First
  • Stand up for Job Creators, Laborers, and Farmers
  • Stop Financial Scammers
  • Crack Down on Sanctuary Cities
  • Defend Vulnerable Adults and the Elderly

He doesn’t explain what “Minnesota First” means, but given the Trumpian context, I feel comfortable assuming this means, “HEY, SUPER RACIST PEOPLE: I AM YOUR FRIEND.”

Regarding his record, his website says, “As a Constitutional Lawyer, Doug successfully defended the Constitution in cases all across the country.” Here’s what that means: Doug is legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian advocacy group based in Arizona that the Southern Poverty Law Center considers to be an anti-LGBT hate group. Asked about the ADF in the TPT debate, he insisted that they were all about religious freedom. The ADF will go to the mat for the right of Christians to discriminate against gay people (with some minor sidelines in defending Ten Commandments monuments and harassing people seeking abortions). I went looking to see if they had ever, even once, defended the religious liberty of someone who was not a Christian and didn’t find anything.

Here’s a Greatest Hits list for Doug:

  • In 2017 he wrote a letter to (and spoke at a school board meeting of) the Anoka-Hennepin School district opposing the right of trans kids to pee. You can read the letter here. You can also see him speak, here. I think it’s important to underscore that this was in the absolutely notorious Anoka-Hennepin School District, which was sued a few years back for allowing unchecked bullying of LGBT students, including by teachers, leading to a rash of suicides.
  • In response to the State of Minnesota providing a toolkit to schools to provide safe and supportive schools to transgender students, Doug Wardlow commented in an interview with a right-wing Christian site, “I think what they’re trying to do is frighten schools into just going along with this transgender ideology.” Later in the article he says, “Minnesota is pushing the issue in a way that you would expect an issue advocate to do.” Not mentioned: Minnesota’s Human Rights Act explicitly protects the rights of transgender people. So yes: our schools should be providing leadership on this issue, because they need to comply with state law. You know, the state law that Doug Wardlow says he’ll definitely enforce because that’s really the only job of the Attorney General.
  • In 2017 he worked pro bono to restore a cross to a public park in Belle Plaine.
  • In 2016 he tried to prevent an Ohio 11-year-old from being able to pee.  (Fox News link.)
  • Also in 2016 he defended a Michigan funeral home owner for firing a trans woman: “It’s a big victory for religious freedom,” Wardlow said. “The government doesn’t have the ability to force business owners to violate their religious beliefs about human sexuality, or anything else for that matter…. The funeral home would have had no problem if Stephens wanted to dress that way on his own time. The problem was that he wanted to dress as a member of the opposite sex while at work.” (My apologies for including his misgendering bullshit, but I really don’t want to pretty up who this guy is.)

  • In 2015, Wardlow either wrote ADF’s brief opposing same-sex marriage rights in Obergefell v. Hodges, or commented on it, I’m not 100% sure, but here’s the bit that definitely came from Doug: “The states should be free to affirm the essential role that marriage has always played in linking children to both of their biological parents. Maintaining these essential links surely constitutes a legitimate government interest, particularly in a time of increasing fatherlessness and broken homes.”

Media Matters has a long piece documenting all the bullshit ADF gets up to, here. The City Pages has a long article about Wardlow’s history here where he’s quoted talking about the ADF:

Wardlow claims the Star Tribune wanted to believe what he said “about rebuilding the criminal law division and enforcing the law” as attorney general, but asked how could  they trust him, given his work for the Alliance?

Alliance isn’t a hate group, Wardlow replied. “We fight for free speech.”

He laughed, as if bemused by the whole thing.


His content-free website makes it harder to critique the substance of his current campaign, but even when he’s tying himself in knots trying to convince everyone he’s an apolitical moderate, gross stuff slips through. In the TPT debate:

  1. He insisted all our current health care system problems are because things were just great until Obamacare screwed them up. He insisted he’d never filed a lawsuit against the ACA — but he did file a brief against the Medicaid Expansion.
  2. When Keith was talking about consumer protection in the area of housing, he interrupted to say, “Now you’re talking about fighting the President’s agenda!”
  3. Asked about the opiate crisis, he started talking about how he’d want to ramp up the criminal prosecution division of the AG’s office.
  4. Asked about immigration, he talked about wanting to work with the federal authorities to report “criminal illegal aliens.”

Doug Wardlow is absolutely not a moderate. He is a right-wing extremist who has spent years honing his ability to advocate for the ideology of Dominionist Christianity in the blandest possible terms. Don’t be fooled by this guy. Wardlow’s agenda would be anti-gay, anti-trans, anti-choice, anti-ACA, and anti-police-accountability, all couched within the framework of, “I’m not writing the legislation, I’m just enforcing the laws of the state.

I have a number of trans friends living in Minnesota. I have friends with trans children. The threat here is not hypothetical for me, and I hope you don’t treat it that way, either. Electing Doug Wardlow will harm people I know.

Noah M. Johnson (Grassroots/Legalize Cannabis)


Noah Johnson’s name will remain on the ballot, but he has endorsed Keith Ellison.

Noah Johnson, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate for Minnesota attorney general, said Monday he is endorsing DFL candidate Keith Ellison in the statewide race.

Johnson said he doesn’t want to draw votes away from Ellison to the benefit of Republican candidate Doug Wardlow.

“I was concerned about splitting the vote, that my presence of the ballot would have a detrimental effect to Mr. Ellison, who’s clearly the right choice over Mr. Wardlow,” Johnson said.

You can read Johnson’s Facebook post endorsing Ellison here.

[From my original post]

Noah Johnson’s only web page is a Facebook page. There’s nothing of particular substance on the Facebook page. He did provide answers to the WCCO election guide, which you can find here. He also participated in the TPT debate — he was invited in because he got 5% in a poll — but had very little of substance to add.

He has zero management experience. He has never tried a case before a jury. He graduated from law school last year.

If you want to cast a protest vote, he’s basically your Protest Vote option. But do not delude yourself: (1) he has no chance of winning. He doesn’t have a real website; he has no fundraising link; he has no volunteering link; people who’ve told him on their Facebook page that they want to volunteer for him get no answers at all, or responses like “I might take you up on that!” And (2) if he somehow won anyway, he’s not remotely qualified for this job. He finished law school last year. He has never tried a case before a jury.

You can cast your vote wherever you want. You can write in your fave who didn’t win the primary. Whatever. But your next Attorney General is going to be either Doug Wardlow, or Keith Ellison. [Editing 10/15 to add: and Noah Johnson clearly reached that exact same conclusion given that he has now endorsed Keith Ellison.]

Keith Ellison (DFL)

If you’re like most of my readers, you’re pretty sold on Keith’s policies. You want someone who will demand corporate accountability for drug prices and opiate addiction, who will defend the ACA, fight for fair student loans and safe workplaces and honest paychecks, who will defend trans kids and immigrants and anyone else vulnerable in Trump’s America. And you know that Keith is the candidate offering those stances.

What you’re worried about — what you came here to read about — is Karen Monahan, Keith’s ex-girlfriend who has accused him of abuse.

I’m going to start by noting that I don’t know either Keith Ellison or Karen personally. I’ve heard Keith speak at DFL events and I may have shaken hands with him at some point. I don’t think I’ve ever met Karen.

I’ll also note that when this story broke, right before the primary, I decided not to vote for Keith in the primary. I had doubts about Karen’s story, which I’ll get into shortly, but I thought it would be better for the DFL to have a candidate who was not being accused of abuse by an ex, and elections are about what’s best for the state, not what’s fairest to the candidates. But Keith won the primary anyway, so now it’s not a choice between Keith and other Democrats, it’s a choice between Keith Ellison and Doug Wardlow. Minnesota law doesn’t allow for a candidate who won the primary to just drop out and be replaced. Candidates can be replaced on the ballot if they die, or if they have “a catastrophic illness that will permanently and continuously incapacitate the candidate and prevent the candidate from performing the duties of the office.”

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last month thinking about the phrase “believe women.” And what sort of proof I ask for or expect. If I’m talking to a friend, I need zero proof. If you say your ex was abusive, I’m not going to demand an affidavit, I’m going to say “I’m so sorry, what an asshole.” …Unless, say, you’re telling me your ex was abusive while glancing anxiously at the trunk of your car and asking me to grab a shovel and come for a drive. My standard of proof for this stuff depends heavily on what you’re asking me to do with the information.

In 2016, I served on a Ramsey County jury for a domestic violence case. Defendants in court have a legal presumption of innocence under the constitution. Their guilt needs to be established beyond a reasonable doubt. We convicted. The defendant was sent to prison for 2-3 years. (It was not a first offense.) Taking away someone’s freedom is a big deal. Everyone in the jury room took that very seriously.

The action Karen is asking for now — because even though she’s said she doesn’t expect anything from anyone, she’s also clearly furious about the fact that people are still supporting Keith for AG — is to let a vile bigot serve as Attorney General of our state.  If that’s what you want from me, my standard of proof is pretty high. Because what you’re asking for is going to hurt the trans people I know who are protected by policies that Doug Wardlow dedicated his life to fighting. It’s going to hurt immigrants who are sheltered by the Sanctuary City policies of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Giving this position to a Republican for four years would be a really goddamn big deal, especially right now.

(In the primary, what she was asking was for people to vote for some other Democrat! And that’s not nearly the same category of ask.)

So having said all that: yes, I am skeptical of Karen’s story. I’m going to go through my reasons point by point.

Karen Claims She’s Been Smeared

If you check Karen’s Twitter feed, it’s full of accusations that Keith and his surrogates are smearing her. These claims go back to 2017.

Karen Monahan: Narcissist smear their victims, engage in pathological lying, run & hide from their misdeeds, manipulate, get their inner circle to do their dirty work to protect them, get bored easy, always looking for a new competition, more power, pathological cheaters & are always the victim. Via Twitter, 3 Aug 2018

Karen Monahan: narcissist recruit others to do his dirty work. Often times they are so happy to be called on by them, they are out fishing for info and smearing the person the narc abused for them. What sad is they have talked so much crap about those same people out doing his dirty work via Twitter, 8 Aug 2018

Twitter thread from Karen Monahan, 24 Nov 2017: The person who abused me, only cared about himself in the aftermath. Blamed, shamed, and smeared my name. He sought sympathy from friends and other females he was preying on. Then blamed me for looking at the phone and finding all the text. He was the victim because I didn't respect his "privacy". Really? Your privacy ends where my liberation begins. He threatened me if I exposed him. He would gaslight me, pathological lies, manipulation, name calling, serial cheating, exposing us all to health risk, putting jos hands on me and much more. Not one time has there been remorse or responsibility.

Tweet from Karen, 19 Dec 2017: This is currently happening in my situation. He began smearing me, lies, manipulating others. I have offered restorative justice for a year. He has declined and continues to run from his actions. [Below the tweet: a graphic saying NARCISSIST'S SMEAR CAMPAIGN" that goes on to say: 1. PREEMPTIVELY starts smear campaign by planting seeds in the minds of others 2 Begins the smear by painting himself or herself as the devoted, loving, innocent VICTIM of you 3 Twist stories and tells lies about your character making sure to incorporate...]

(I am using screen shots here because among other things, I think it’s pretty likely she’ll block me on all social media as soon as this post goes up. I have typed in an alt-text transcription for the screen shots, so hopefully I won’t screw up anyone’s screen reader.)

Anyway. Back in August when this first hit the news, I noticed this claim, and I went looking for smears. And I found nothing. Nothing from Keith. Nothing from surrogates. I basically found nothing online about Karen except some odds and ends about her job. After she went public, he said that they were in a relationship that ended and he still cared about her well-being and that was it. From what I can tell, he’s also forbidden his friends from saying anything bad about her: on an August episode of the local politics podcast Wrong About Everything, Javier Morillo (who knows both Keith and Karen personally) said that his inside knowledge made it awkward because there was stuff he couldn’t talk about but that he was still supporting Keith.

As far as I can tell, the claim that Keith has been smearing Karen is objectively not true. There are a lot of claims that are hard to fact-check, but I feel like I have fact-checked this one and determined that it’s false. If a well-connected public figure is smearing you online, I should be able to find some of the horrible lies he’s telling when I’m specifically looking for them.

I’m sure that Karen will consider this post to be a smear by someone sent by a narcissist to do his dirty work. For the record, I have had zero contact with the Ellison campaign; the only e-mails I’ve gotten about this race have been people saying, “when are you going to write about it?” and all my information comes from public sources. Other people might look at the same stuff I looked at and reach entirely different conclusions.

Texts from Keith and What I’m Seeing In Them

Karen saved an enormous number of screen shots of texts etc. which she shared with MPR. The MPR reporters who read through them found evidence of a relationship that was ending, not evidence of emotional abuse. And that’s more or less what I see in the texts she shared online. Here’s an example:


So, just to be clear: in March of 2017, months after the breakup, Keith texted to Karen (presumably in the context of a longer conversation), “let’s just not talk. It’s not good or healthy. So long. Actually, it’s a sad thing that you’re so bitter, so angry, so resentful. But that’s your burden.”

I look at that message, and I don’t see narcissism; I see boundary-setting. Curt, somewhat snarky boundary setting, with a passive-aggressive dig at the end, but whatever — they had broken up. “Let’s just not talk, so long,” is an entirely reasonable thing to say to an ex.

Another one:


I’m guessing that this message came in November of 2017 and she shared it fairly promptly afterward, given that the breakup was January-ish and the message mentions that it’s been a year.

Karen considers this manipulation, arrogance, and gaslighting. What I see is the sort of message a reasonable person might send to an ex they still care about but are also trying to maintain some distance from.

In response to a post along these lines from Karen, Jodi Jacobson (who’s the editor-in-chief of Rewire News) had a similar response to the one I had:

Two tweets. The first is someone named Jodi Jacobson saying, "This proves what? Nothing." The second is an account called ANA - AfterNarcAbuse saying "Jodi, Please educate yourself on Narcissistic Abuse. Then you'll "see" it."

Karen’s social media feed is really really heavily stuff from groups sharing information on Narcissistic Abuse. Here’s the Wikipedia article about Narcissistic Abuse between adults.

Here’s what I see in Keith’s texts: someone who’s trying to resist the impulse to engage emotionally, which is perfectly reasonable when you’re trying to get some distance after a breakupPosts like the response above from AfterNarcAbuse are frankly crazy-making to me. They make me feel like I’m staring at the naked Emperor parading around and being told that I would definitely see those clothes if only I were a better person.

Finally, she repeatedly says she’s been threatened by Keith. I think the threat she talks about is his response when she told him she was going to write a book about their relationship and he responded, “Horrible attack on my privacy, unreal.” I think it’s legitimate to be angry if your ex is threatening to write a book about you. If you say something like, “if you do that, you’ll regret it,” that’s a threat. “Horrible attack on my privacy, unreal” is not a threat.

Karen’s Manifesto

Back in August, Karen sent a statement to Fox News. Most news organizations excerpted it lightly, because it is 3,000 words long and goes on for pages before she gets to any specific allegations:

Throughout the relationship he would say and do things and then gaslight me when I would ask what was going on.. He would make me think I was crazy for suspecting things I had heard or had  seen. Come to find out, everything that I would bring up was actually true. The more I would see and hear things, the more I would bring it up. The anger and rage were ramping up. He would say and do things to manipulate me, so I wouldn’t bring  certain issue up. A few examples of using power and control, cancel trips, tell me to move on a regular basis and would tell me I made him do it because I wouldn’t stop arguing. Basically, the things I would hear and suspect, which were true, I wasn’t allowed to mention or I would deal with some ramification It got worse as time went on.. The pathological lying, cheating, smearing my name and seeking validation and sympathy  from the various females he was preying on, kept getting more and more frequent. He would word certain text where he there was plausible deniability but with everything else, it was so clear. After the relationship, others confirmed various things I was suspect to. That is part of the crazy making with narcissist abuse. One night I confronted him very calm about a lie he had just told me straight to my face. What happened next was a rage that I had never witnessed to that magnitude. He was becoming a person I had never seen before. The next morning, he came into the room I was sleeping in. I was laying across the bed with my headphones on, listening to podcast on my phone.  He said he was about to leave town for the weekend and told me to take the trash out. Given the explosive outrage that occurred the night before, I just should shook my head yes. I didn’t look up at him or saying anything. That is when he tried to drag me off the bed by my legs and feet, screaming “bitch you answer when I am talking to you. I said take out the trash, your a bad guest (even though we were living in the same place). He kept trying to drag me off the bed, telling me to get the fuck out of his house, over and over. I froze. He had to leave and get on the plane. He knocked the shoe off my foot and told me I better be gone when he gets back (which was in two days). This happened in 2016. The gaslighting, manipulation, name calling and cheating started in 2014. By time the physical abuse occurred, I was dealing with the PTSD full blown. I secured an apartment within those two days. I borrowed the money I needed and spent that whole weekend searching for an apartment until I found one. I couldn’t move in until a couple months. During the waiting period he asked me several times to please not move out, he would reimburse me for the deposit. In my gut, I knew it was the right thing to do and said “no”.

This is followed by another five paragraphs that focus on him cheating on her and lying about it.


There’s a single central accusation here that has given this whole thing legs, which is this bit:

That is when he tried to drag me off the bed by my legs and feet, screaming “bitch you answer when I am talking to you. I said take out the trash, your a bad guest (even though we were living in the same place). He kept trying to drag me off the bed, telling me to get the fuck out of his house, over and over.

I saw someone else’s commentary on this that ran in the Star Trib over the weekend where she is dismissive of this accusation: “Ellison is being accused of … well, if you pay attention to the details … pulling on his ex-girlfriend’s feet and demanding that she move out of his house because their relationship had ended.” I am not going to dismiss the substance of the accusation here. Laying hands on someone in anger is a big deal. But I am unconvinced things went down the way Karen says they did, because there’s so much else she sees as clearly, self-evidently awful that just doesn’t look that way from the outside.

It’s also really striking to me that she doesn’t make this incident central. She spends a lot more time accusing Keith of infidelity. I view cheating as evidence that you’re a crappy boyfriend or spouse; I don’t consider it disqualifying for office.

The Video

Karen says there’s a video of that incident, and her son says he’s seen it. No one else has seen it. At one point she said she’d misplaced it; then she said that victims shouldn’t have to provide proof. She has offered up a lot of other things she considers corroborating evidence, most of which are examples of her telling the same story in various contexts. She released a medical record last week from a November 2017 visit that was a followup for anemia, where she told her doctor she’d been in an abusive relationship and her doctor asked her if she was now living somewhere safe.

She has talked about the video, and the violence, in contradictory ways over time. In December 2017, she said she “began to video his rage and the physical abuse,” which implies multiple incidents; she has since said there was a single episode of violence.


She also said in early August that she saved videos, plural:


Again, there was apparently just the one.

Her son says he’s seen this video, which makes me think there is a video out there that shows something, but the fact that Karen hasn’t let any journalists see it makes me think it probably doesn’t show what she says it shows. (She has a lot more options than just releasing this video to the world. For example, she could hand-pick a journalist and let that person view it and describe what they saw.)

Miscellaneous Bad Information You Should Ignore

There is some straight-up false information floating around. For example, there are conservative websites that are circulating photos of two different battered women with bruised faces, claiming that these are pictures of Karen Monahan and that the injuries were inflicted by Ellison. These are not pictures of Karen. They don’t look like her; Karen has said they’re not her. Her allegation is that Keith grabbed her feet and tried to drag her off a bed while cursing at her. She has never said that he hit her in the face. The claim that he “beat the shit out of her” or that he gave her a black eye: straight-up lies.  (From Republican propagandists. Not from Karen.)

The right wing has also helpfully resurrected the story of Amy Alexander. Amy Alexander claimed in 2006 that she’d had an affair with Keith and that he got angry, pushed her, and broke a door. She did call the police and file a report to this effect. Her story was published in a Republican newsletter, which you can still find online along with some Islamophobic commentary. I think the information that he was granted a restraining order against her, and her request for a restraining order was tossed, has made the rounds pretty thoroughly, but there are some other weird details about this that I haven’t seen discussed, which are covered in this MPR story from 2006:

  1. Apparently Amy Alexander was working with a local radio personality who was trying to make a go of freelance journalism; this person possibly tried to extort money from Keith. (Mesa Kincaid has since died; she had a heart attack in 2009.)
  2. When Star Tribune reporters approached Alexander for an interview, she invited them in and spoke with them for an hour and a half. Two days later she called the police and claimed the newspaper was harassing her.
  3. During the interview, Alexander named several people she said could corroborate incidents that were evidence of her relationship with Ellison. (She said she was having an extramarital affair with him; he said he had never had an affair with her, she was a stalker.) The Strib then faithfully got in touch with all of those people, none of whom corroborated her claims.

Amy Alexander is not evidence that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Amy Alexander is evidence that men, as well as women, can wind up with stalkers.

(I looked up the judge who ruled on the restraining orders. It’s honestly hard to get a clear sense of whether a particular judge is a misogynistic douchebag, but everything I found about Robert Lynn seemed either uncontroversial, or an unrelated sort of controversial. In the 1980s, as a Hennepin County Attorney, he commented to a researcher that they didn’t much enforce the sodomy law then on the books. In 1990, he ruled that a written confession to sex offenses made as part of a sex offender treatment program could be used to prosecute the offender. He presided over the trial of a cop killer in 1993. He barred the movement of some contested Zambonis when the North Stars and the Met Center were fighting over them, also in 1993. He ruled in favor of a double-dipping professor who accepted tenure-track jobs in two places without telling either institution. He said you could prosecute someone for Khat possession even if you couldn’t prove it was devoid of active ingredients. I probably disagree with some of the decisions he made, but he doesn’t seem to have been a bad judge.)

What People Who Know Karen and Keith Are Saying 

Back in August, shortly after Karen’s allegations broke, Kim Ellison released a statement that Keith never abused her in any way before, during, or after their marriage. She has stuck with and elaborated on this statement. I take that a lot more seriously than I do Brett Kavanaugh’s ability to come up with a list of women he hasn’t raped. Most rapists do manage to refrain from raping most of the women they meet. However, I would find it really startling if someone who was abusing his girlfriend at the age of 54 did not ever in 25 years of marriage abuse the woman he met in high school and married at 24. Also, if Keith is a narcissist, he would definitely have been a narcissist while married to Kim, and I would have expected her to notice.

Keith has four children. His son Jeremiah, who was recently elected to the City Council, re-shared his mother’s statement on social media. (If Jeremiah has made any other statement on this, I haven’t seen it.) His daughter Amirah made a long post to Facebook with her take, which I think is worth reading. Here’s an excerpt:

[Karen] quickly became actively territorial and threatening towards me as her relationship with my dad became more serious. To me, then, it felt like she was trying to manipulate my dad against me by accusing me of destroying her things and then telling my dad about it in hopes that he’d reprimand me. I never touched her things. As a teenager I couldn’t tell if she believed her accusations against me, or if she simply wanted to drive a wedge between me and my dad.

My attempts to give her more and more space only brought more stress. One weekend, when I finally cleared enough space in my room to sleep there, she refused to knock or respect my space. I felt as if there was nothing of mine that she had to respect. She even accused my mother of stealing her things even though my mom had never visited my dad’s place. She went further by getting my brothers involved, and making passive-aggressive comments about which ones of us she “liked”. […]

If I didn’t know Karen, I too would want to lean towards believing the accuser and being skeptical of the accused. Because those of us who are invested in the safety of women know that false allegations just do not happen often.

I sincerely hope that Karen finds the closure she needs for whatever grief she is holding. I hope that she finds peace. I also hope, not only for my family but for the good people who support her, that she corrects this horrible mistake, that she admits there is no video because there was no incident, and that she reckon with her anger in a more honest way.

How many people do I know with a stepparent like this? Too many. The fact that Elijah and Isaiah haven’t commented, and Jeremiah’s only re-shared his mother’s statement, suggests that Amirah’s comments are not the result of pressure to take a side publicly. (I’m also just going to note that they don’t reflect positively on Keith, who apparently let Karen move into his daughter’s room and did not demand that Karen knock or respect Amirah’s space or privacy.)

I mentioned Javier Morillo’s comments on Wrong About Everything back in August; the podcast revisited Karen’s accusations on September 22nd, episode 224, and Javier had a bit more to say. (Starting 46 minutes in.)

Specifically, he noted that Keith has been doing a crap job of defending himself. Javier doesn’t believe the accusations — that was really clear — but he commented that his convictions on this were heavily based on information that was not being made public.

The most interesting bit of information he added to the mix was a letter that Karen Monahan sent Keith’s current girlfriend on New Year’s Eve of this year. This was partially quoted in the New York Times article but I think it’s worth reading in its entirety (assuming the text Javier shared was accurate):

Your desires, and how you acted on those desires, in this whole situation had nothing to do with Keith’s wellbeing, had nothing to do with what was good for his spirit, his job, the district, Jeremiah’s race, etc. In fact, had you taken any of that into account you may have come to the conclusion that he had a lot to lose, and he and his family would be hurt and impacted negatively had things played out differently, but you didn’t take that into account. You thought of your needs, what you wanted, your desires, and it didn’t matter who you hurt. It didn’t matter if you entered into the relationship honorably or honestly, you wanted what you wanted even if the seeds were tainted.

That’s not a letter warning someone else about the abuse they might face. That’s a letter that sounds like a threat. It’s also a letter that is wildly inappropriate on its face. A year after a breakup, to send something like this to your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend?  That’s an enormous violation of basic boundaries.

Javier also expressed a lot of frustration about how Keith is handling this situation. First of all, Keith knew this was coming. Karen’s accusations escalated over a number of months: she started out with occasional posts about narcissism in January/February 2017, made increasing numbers of posts saying she’d been the victim of “narcissist abuse” over the course of 2017, and started making accusations about physical abuse in November.

One of the basic guidelines in crisis management, Javier noted, is to get information out early. In other words, you should do exactly what Karen is accusing Keith of doing — which, depending on your perspective, you might see as smearing Karen’s name, or you might see as making sure people know the facts of the situation. Keith could have done this; he didn’t. He also hasn’t told his own story. He’s said the accusations are not true, that the video doesn’t exist, and that he welcomes an ethics investigation — beyond that, he’s tried to avoid talking about the accusations, or Karen.

“He and his team have not put enough out there to give people something to latch onto,” Javier said. “I feel like, when people ask me, why do you believe Keith? it’s not because of anything he’s said publicly. … It’s not fair to the public, and it’s not fair to me.”

And I am so very much with Javier on this. If you’re supporting Keith publicly, you’re out there on a limb, saying, “I believe most women, but not this woman,” and Keith’s giving you nothing to grab onto, no alternative story to tell here. And by “you” here, I mean me.

This blog is a hobby but at this point it’s also an obligation. People rely on this blog because I pull a lot of diverse links and news sources together and provide analysis they find useful. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have had to weigh in on this. I absolutely felt like I was going to have to weigh in on this.

And I am frankly dreading sharing this post. I’ve re-written it repeatedly, even aside from the draft I lost. I’ve second-guessed every sentence. I am afraid that I will lose real-life friends over this. Because here I am, out on that limb, picking apart the story of someone who says she’s been abused. I’m doing that because picking apart claims made by and about candidates for office is what I do here. But emotionally, this sucks.

Keith put me in this position by deciding to run this year. Thanks a lot, Keith. I’m going to vote for you, but I hope someone runs against you in the primary in 2022 and you lose.

I want to finish by noting that I fundamentally don’t know exactly what happened between Keith and Karen. You might still believe Karen; you don’t have to find my analysis here convincing. But even if you’re 100% convinced that her story is true, I still think you should vote for Keith.

Keith Ellison will not use the powers of his office to disempower abuse victims — even if he is himself an abuser. Doug Wardlow, on the other hand, has made it absolutely clear that he will use the powers of the Attorney General’s office to harm immigrants and LGBT people

I am convinced, for what it’s worth, that Keith Ellison is a terrible boyfriend and that his personal life is an absolute dumpster fire.

But I think he’s unquestionably the least of the available evils for Attorney General.

EDITING 10/3 to add:

The Minnesota DFL hired someone to investigate the allegations; her report was released this week and shared with the AP, so it’s online if you’d like to read it. I’ll note that I had the timing wrong of what happened when. The alleged violent incident happened in late August of 2016, and she moved out in October of 2016. I’d thought it happened in December of 2016 and she’d moved out in January.

The other bit that came out this week is that Karen Monahan’s lawyer is a guy named Andrew Parker — formerly the boss of Doug Wardlow.


There’s an excellent new MinnPost article about Wardlow. From the piece:

In a campaign piece aimed at supporters and volunteers, Wardlow asked them to rank the actions they want him to take if elected. One of those is “Defend President Trump’s agenda in court.” Others are to “prosecute illegal trafficking in fetal body parts” and “investigate and prosecute illegal voting.”

Wardlow said that campaign literature was  aimed at “getting the base fired up… we were soliciting input.” He first said it was asking for suggestions and didn’t say he would do any of those things. But after being read the words on the card “Doug Wardlow will institute these duties when he is your MN Attorney General,” he said he wouldn’t, in fact, take all of those actions. […]

But Ellison’s campaign has spotlighted a video of Wardlow at the GOP booth at the state fair in 2017 saying he would use the office to go after alleged vote fraud and illegal voting as part of an effort to make the state more Republican.

“If we win the attorney general’s office, which I can do, we can change the political complexion of the state long-term because the attorney general should be going after election fraud,” he said at the GOP forum. “It should be looking into illegal voting; it should be working with county attorneys to prosecute illegal voting.”

“Looking into illegal voting” has nothing to do with illegal voting anywhere people have pushed for it; it means “voter intimidation.” Illegal voting is a fake problem, used as a justification for measures to suppress the votes of anyone the Republican party thinks might be more likely to vote for Democrats.  Our state has already solidly rejected Republican vote-suppression strategies once, when we voted down the Republican-led Voter ID amendment in 2012. We don’t need to fall for this bullshit.

Vote against Doug Wardlow.


At a private fundraiser this week, Doug Wardlow described plans for a partisan purge of the Attorney General’s office.

“It’s really exciting now to be in a position for the first time in a half century to take this office back,” Wardlow said. “We’re going to fire 42 Democratic attorneys right off the bat and get Republican attorneys in there.”

You know that old fable about the scorpion and the frog? Imagine that the scorpion, prior to the story, was at a party full of fellow scorpions and bragged about how he was definitely going to sting the frog if given the opportunity to do so. And imagine this was caught on tape.

Doug Wardlow has told you who he is. Believe him.


One of Ellison primary opponents has registered as a write-in candidate. There is no scenario in which he’ll win. Do not waste your vote. Your choices are Ellison, or Wardlow.




26 thoughts on “Election 2018: Attorney General

  1. Thank you for this post. The Ellison situation has been much on my mind the last few days because of the Kavanaugh SC nomination process. It felt hypocritical of me to plan to vote for Ellison when I also believed Dr. Blasey Ford. At the same time, I believe Kavanaugh on the SC will be a disaster for America and that Wardlow would also be disastrous in the Minnesota AG office. Thank you so much for doing the hard work to research and write this piece. You are performing an outstanding public service.

  2. This is fascinating. Thanks for writing this. You provide really important information that I’ve not seen put together in one spot.

  3. Thank you. I appreciate your analysis and I know this had to be hard to write and harder to put out there. I appreciate all of your election analysis, and for what it’s worth, I agree with your conclusion on who to vote for in this one 100%

    Mary Turck maryturck@visi.com News Day/Immigration News/Fragments at maryturck.com

    Ta-Nehisi Coates: If nothing ever changes, that does not relieve me of the responsibility to tell the truth as I see it.


  4. Thank you, as always, for doing the work. Like you I am voting for Ellison even though I’m mad as hell at him. Unlike you I dont believe him on this. But the alternative is so much worse

  5. Hi Naomi. I had been waiting for this! I FEEL your dread. Sending you big hugs. You don’t know me, but we have mutual friends. Over many years, I’ve come to respect your opinion and rely on your analyses, especially for the races farther down the ballot. I am NO policy wonk, but I feel an overwhelming civic responsibility to vote in an informed manner. While I do dig beyond it, I usually refer to your blog as my go-to launch pad. So, thank you! And especially thank you for being so thorough, thoughtful, and diligent with your efforts regarding this particular race.

  6. Very thoughtful take. I’m not in MN so won’t have to make a choice in Nov.
    One issue sticks out for me. Murillo and other supporters see his reluctance to defend himself vigorously as just wanting to protect his and his family’s privacy. Obviously, another explanation is that some of her claims are true and he’s embarrassed about it. I can certainly imagine losing my temper with that woman, and the “incident” barely registers as assault in her telling, never mind whether she might be exaggerating.
    Then, why deny? In the aftermath of the Kavanaugh sh*tshow it’s disturbing to hear blanket denials, even when assented to by friends and family. (Divorce does strange things to a persons self-image. )
    Ultimately, I’m very glad I don’t have to vote in MN this year!

  7. Doug Wardlow was my Minnesota House representative in 2011-12, and I have never been so happy with an election result as when we got rid of him. His father, Lynn Wardlow, held the same seat from 2003-2008, and that one is also high on my list. As you’re seeing in this campaign, Doug is both hostile to others and dishonest about it, and he got those qualities from his father.

    If anything I think you’ve understated what a disaster having any Wardlow in any office is likely to be. I am usually not a fan of voting purely against candidates, but I will be making an exception for Doug, and I would be willing to if the accusations against his opponent were far worse. I don’t think Keith Ellison will be a good Attorney General, I find his decision to run for the job remarkably ill-conceived on a purely political level, and obviously the accusations are troubling, but none of that particularly moves the needle on my desire to have anyone but Doug Wardlow win the election.

  8. Thank you Naomi. I, like other commenters, have been struggling with the minor Kavanaugh parallels. I go to school in D.C., so I’ll be sending in my early voting ballot soon, and you’ve been paramount to my decisions throughout this election, and last. Hope you find the next races not as difficult, and my best of luck to you!
    Henry S. Balas

  9. Thank you so much for this. I am SO ANGRY at Ellison right now. I’m still donating to his campaign, but he has left the state incredibly vulnerable. There is NO REASON why someone like Wardlow should ever win in the state of Minnesota. Not in any year. Not for any reason. If he wins, the responsibility for that calamity lies solely at the feet of Ellison. He could have dropped out at the Primary. He could have realized that the team is bigger than the players.

    And honestly? I think that Karen’s claim of narcissism isn’t all that far fetched. I think that MOST politicians are on the narcissism spectrum. But narcissist does not mean abuser. That is something else, and it’s important not to equate the two. Unfortunately, I do think that it’s narcissism and male ego that has led to this mess. A man with a cooler head and a smaller ego would have put the good of the State before his career. Ellison didn’t do that. And now we’re stuck.

    Despite Ellison’s shortcomings, I do think he’ll make a perfectly fine AG. I’m just scared he won’t get the opportunity, and if he doesn’t it’s his own stupid fault.

    Wardlow would be a disaster. Will be a disaster. Would be a disaster under any circumstances and in any situation. And his win is an absolute possibility right now. And that SUCKS.

    • One of Karen’s tweets that talked about narcissism, I read it and thought, “this is a legitimate description of every person who has EVER run for office in the history of ever. Are they ALL narcissists?” And maybe, at least to a degree, in which case we shouldn’t worry all that much about whether a politician is a narcissist and just pick whichever narcissist aligns with us politically (which in this case is DEFINITELY ELLISON, NOT WARDLOW.)

  10. Thank you, Naomi. This may not mean as much, coming from an old white guy, but I found your summary well-sourced, well-written, and entirely credible.

    I don’t know whether Keith is dumpster-fire boyfriend material – he was married for many years and they seem to have raised four good kids. I certainly believe he’s innocent of Karen’s claims, that he’s being smeared by sleazy Wardlow supporters, that the backing of Javier – who I sort of know and very much respect – means something, and above all that Ellison is by far the best qualified of these candidates.

  11. I’m a chronically ill gay autistic person who has been violently sexually assaulted. I didn’t take these accusations lightly, to say the least. Voted for Ellison. Wasn’t even much of a choice. Wardlow is an intolerable option who will do immense damage to Minnesota and Minnesotans. I’d rather do shots of formaldehyde than give him an even microscopic benefit of the doubt.

  12. “I view cheating as evidence that you’re a crappy boyfriend or spouse”. What an awful, false, and degrading thing to say. I read the article but will never come back to this blog. Who are you to cast such judgements?

  13. I think Ellison probably is abusive, that is his reluctance. And if we take a stance that Ford needs to be believed at her word. Then we also need to take the same stand with Monahan. I ask the author did you do a detailed analysis on Ford’s claims and innacuracies, possible motives and explaining away her allegations? The article simply reads as you like Keith Ellison and will do anything to justify voting for him. Why not simply admit it from the start? To me it appears MN has no good choice for AG. MN continues to do silly things when voting.

    • Although this is a disingenuous troll and not someone coming at this topic in good faith, I HAVE run into people struggling with this question in good faith so let me go through this in a bit more detail.

      1. Ford was joined immediately by several other women who told similar stories about Kavanaugh being sexually abusive while drunk. In one case, the defense was, “it would have been the talk of the campus.” Someone shortly came forward to say that it WAS, in fact, the talk of the campus. The FBI was not allowed to do any investigation or followup of ANY of this. Ford also made her statement UNDER OATH. Sworn testimony is evidence.

      Finally, if Ford had claimed to have a video of Kavanaugh, then said she didn’t want to show it to anyone, or maybe she’d lost it, or maybe she just didn’t think she should HAVE to provide it to the people investigating her allegations — please don’t insult my intelligence with the UTTERLY SPECIOUS idea that Republicans would have taken that claim with anything remotely approaching the seriousness that they’re pretending to take Karen’s claim.

      2. The GOP could have chosen to withdraw Kavanaugh from consideration and choose a different person as Justice off the list of stomach-turning ultra-conservative douchebags provided by the Heritage Foundation. They were not making the choice between Brett Kavanaugh and a 50-year-old reincarnation of Thurgood Marshall.

      Back in August, we were choosing between Ellison and other possibilities, and I voted for someone else. That’s no longer an option. Now it’s Ellison or Wardlow.

  14. Naomi,

    As always, I appreciate your diligence and thoughtfulness. It’s an awful situation. I’m not sure what Ellison’s silence is about; I’m not convinced that it means he did anything. But, it would be nice to hear something from him. However, reading Monahan’s tweets was interesting. Her language is very objectifying. Not using his name but using a label–it’s the type of thing that abusers often do to depersonalize the victim. I AM NOT SAYING SHE’S AN ABUSER. I am saying that reading those tweets makes me think something is very off about her. It actually makes me lean more toward believing Ellison didn’t do what she accuses him of. And, reading what others have said about her (especially Ellison’s daughter) adds to my belief that something is very off personality wise with her. If that is so, then getting attention from the right wing and being stroked by them would lead this sort of personality to make accusations and either conflate events or make them up.

  15. Thank you for this thoughtful and researched breakdown of the matter. In no way did I read it as you dismissing Karen’s allegations or supporting a cover up if Ellison. I hope you won’t waste time worrying about people who post here with inflammatory accusations like the Pennsylvania one above who obviously did not read what you actually wrote nor is willing to weigh evidence. Voting for Ellison leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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