Though his name was out there a few months ago, Republican Chris Fields made it official on Tuesday—he's running against incumbent Keith Ellison in Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District in 2012.
Fields joins as a Republican challenger to Ellison, a Democrat. It will be an uphill battle for both challengers in the generally liberal district—Ellison won with 68 percent of the vote in 2010, and with 71 percent of the vote in 2008.
Fields, a former Marine from New York City who lives in Minneapolis, said in a statement that he doesn't think Ellison has been an effective leader during his three terms in Congress. Fields added that his own inner-city upbringing, as well as his time in the Marines, taught him about perseverance and leadership.
"These lessons have prepared me to run for Congress," Fields said. "They have also prepared me to serve all the people of the 5th Congressional District and the United States faithfully with an unwavering commitment to their wellbeing."
Fields, who will be seeking the GOP nomination, told MPR in September that the economy is his key issue.
"Folks are hurting out there," he said. "Folks are hurting across the whole district, and folks are hurting particularly in North Minneapolis, and since Congressman (Ellison) has been in office, folks haven't gotten a lot of relief economically."
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Ellison on Mideast Prisoner Exchange
On Monday Ellison praised the deal struck between Israel and Palestine to release a young Israeli soldier in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
That young solider, 24-year-old Gilad Shalit, was captured by Hamas militants more than five years ago, and since then, Israelis have rallied for his freedom. On Sunday, Israel released the names of the first 477 Palestinian prisoners to be freed.
Ellison co-sponsored a resolution asking for Shalit’s release last year and renewed that appeal in a joint statement with religious and academic leaders in August. On Monday he said in a statement that the deal demonstrates "mercy and compassion":
This is a great day for Gilad Shalit and his entire family, as well as the families of the other prisoners who will be released.
During the holy month of Ramadan I joined several Muslim-American leaders and scholars to call on Hamas to release Corp. Shalit as a way to demonstrate mercy and compassion.
It is my hope that the release is carried out as negotiated and that the Shalit family and families of Palestinian prisoners will be able to enjoy being reunited very soon.
Now, it is time for Hamas to put down its arms and reflect on how peaceful negotiations can have excellent results. This successful negotiation should be used as a pattern for broader discussions between the Palestinians and the Israealis. I hope it is a harbinger of the peace to come.”
On Tuesday, after Shalit's release, Ellison said in a statement:
This is wonderful news for the Shalit family and for the many Palestinian families who will soon embrace their freed loved ones. ... “Accomplishments like this one show negotiations can succeed.
Ellison on Occupy Wall Street
Ellison also recently wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post in which he said he understands why people are taking part in the Occupy Wall Street protests across the country. He added that the protests are a sign that Americans want Congress to pass a jobs bill.
Occupy Wall Street's anger is justified, and Washington bears significant responsibility for letting Wall Street run wild before and during the crisis. But we in Washington should not pretend we are part of the movement or that it is directed toward one party. We must avoid acting as usual, which means talking instead of listening.
If we really listen to the Occupy activists we will learn that regular Americans are fed up that Wall Street was not held accountable for the economic debacle they triggered. Regular Americans are frustrated by continued income disparities and the inability of Congress to invest in jobs.