But it was also a major moment for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, the man tasked with prosecuting the case against Chauvin.
“There were many times I felt we were up against the odds, because, I mean, conviction of a police officer for murder is a very rare event,” Ellison told CNN’s Omar Jimenez in an interview Monday following the verdict. ” … you have these chronic enduring conflicts between police and community. They’ve got to come to an end, and this is the President’s business.”
For Ellison, the trial’s verdict — and the yearlong run-up to it — turned him into a hero among liberals nationally desperate for leaders to stand up to what they believe to be the central issue of our time.
“Whatever future he wants to lay out for himself, there are many of us who would support him in that,” Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who heads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told POLITICO, adding: “The recognition of him and what he did for our country — and it really is for our country, and for Black people across the country — is immeasurable.”
Ellison isn’t a new name to connected Democrats.
He lost a bid to chair the Democratic National Committee in the wake of the 2016 election — running as a voice for the liberal left, empowered following Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid.
Then he decided to abandon a safe House seat to run for attorney general of Minnesota in 2018. Why? This from a MinnPost piece at the time gets at it:
“Why Ellison is making that risky move now is rooted in the realization that in the Donald Trump era, the best place to advance a progressive agenda might not be in Congress, but in the courts.”
Of course, life is unpredictable. So, while Ellison may have run for the attorney general job in Minnesota to litigate the legal excesses of the Trump administration, Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, fundamentally changed the AG’s focus — and maybe the trajectory of his political career.
The problem for Ellison, at least in Minnesota, is that there’s no obvious next step for him politically. Gov. Tim Walz (D) is running for a second term in 2022. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) isn’t up for reelection until 2024; Sen. Tina Smith (D) won’t stand for another term until 2026.
That blockade may mean that Ellison will look beyond the Land of 10,000 Lakes for his next move. Perhaps a slot in President Joe Biden’s administration? Or depending on what Biden does in 2024, Ellison could be a national candidate who liberals could get behind — although, admittedly, that looks like a long shot as of now.
The Point: Ellison’s profile has soared due to his central role in the prosecution and conviction of Chauvin. Now the question is, where does he want to go next?