Congressman Keith Ellison was elected as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district in 2007. Ellison visited St. Cloud State University to speak to students about voting. He also introduced candidates running in the St. Cloud area: Zach Dorholt, Aric Putnam, and David Snyder.
Ellison represented his alma mater on his three quarter zip-up, the University of Minnesota Law school, when he walked into the Mississippi room in Atwood Memorial Center. He enthusiastically introduced himself to each person and asked about their career goals. The event was hosted by the SCSU College Democrats at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 4.
Ellison is not only the first African American to be elected to the House of Representatives in the state of Minnesota, but is also the first Muslim to be elected in U.S. Congress.
“This is like Drake coming to play in your dorm room,” said Minnesota State Representative candidate Putnam. “Tomorrow, Keith is going to New York—he didn’t go to lots of colleges, so why SCSU? It’s because St. Cloud matters more than it has in the past, and more than it might in the future.”
Ellison spoke about some of the candidates on the ballots in the St. Cloud area. Putnam is running for state representative in district 14A, while Dorholt is running for state representative in 14B. Though the SCSU campus is in 14B, it is important to know who is on the ballot because many students live in both of these districts. The line divides districts around University Avenue (map).
Snyder is running for U.S. Congress in the 6th district against incumbent Tom Emmer. The 6th district includes Benton, Wright, and Sherburne counties. Snyder spoke for all the candidates in the room by saying they all care about the community in St. Cloud.
“[They] didn’t talk about ‘I,’ [they] talked about ‘we.’ What we could do in Minnesota,” Snyder said.
Professor of communication at St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, Putnam, is running against incumbent Tama Theis.
“Aric is an educator—he cares about students, children, and the community,” Snyder said.
Putnam addressed why voter turnout is low especially for new voters each election. Putnam said, “They use a voter suppressor technique, it gets you not to vote and tells you don’t have the agency and will. Your vote matters, but is treated like it doesn’t.”
Dorholt said the new age of voters every year gets too overwhelmed with the voting process. He encourages students to go to MNvotes.org for information on how to vote if you are not pre-registered on Election Day. Dorholt is an alumnus of St. Cloud State University and he was previously elected in 2012 and served in 2013 and 2014. He is running against incumbent Jim Knoblach.
“Zach did good. Let’s do good for him,” said Ellison. “He learned his lesson right here—we are Zach Dorholts in the making.” Dorholt is focused on making tuition more affordable for college students.
“By the time I graduated, tuition more than doubled. Students now have two jobs and it is still not enough,” Dorholt said.
Ellison introduced each candidate to make a point that voting is more important than some people believe.
“If you think this is just about elections, it is way more than that. It is about the direction of our country, it is about what role America will play in the world and what chances working people of all colors are going to have in this society,” Ellison said.
Ellison admitted that he cannot think of anything better students can do to make this country a better place than to go out and vote.
“All of us are in this room because we are fighting for the simple right that we need to have an inclusive country,” said Ellison.
He drove to St. Cloud to speak with students because this year’s election is special and different than previous years. Ellison emphasized this and questioned, “Is it worth you spending a little time to get your colleagues out to vote? Is it worth your time to save this country for the idea of liberty and justice for all?”