Fields stays active in 5th District despite loss to Ellison

Former Republican candidate Chris Fields lost to Rep. Keith Ellison.

by Jessica Lee

Chris Fields ran against Keith Ellison for Congress this election knowing he would lose.

He instead worked toward getting his conservative message out in a historically Democrat-held district.

He hoped for a record-breaking performance, which he had by getting about 25 percent of the vote — the highest percentage for a Republican candidate in the district in the past five elections.

Fields said he knew early in the race that his chances of beating Ellison were slim, but he wanted the district to be “exposed to the other option.”

 “I got 88,000 votes,” Fields said. “That’s 88,000 people who want me to stay active and engaged in the community.”

According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District consistently votes Democratic. The district has not been represented by a Republican congressman since Rep. Walter Judd a half-century ago.

Running in highly partisan districts is “usually a losing proposition” for the challenger, said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Jacobs said the opponent usually lacks both the name recognition — an important factor for voters at the polls — and the funds to compete with the long-standing incumbent.

“The upside is that you can draw attention and start to build a following to use for other purposes,” Jacobs said.

Fields said one of the main reasons he ran was to get people to pay attention to the other party in the district.

“We got out there and told people our side,” Fields said. “And once we did, we noticed people starting to turn our way, in our direction, and listen.”


Moving forward

Fields, a retired U.S Marine, said he’ll continue to help his district by focusing on initiatives like closing the unemployment and achievement gaps between whites and blacks.

He was adamant that his post-election work wasn’t political activism but simply things that needed to get done in the district.

“I’m going to keep working on several projects that I think government should initiate,” Fields said. “They are the things I was most concerned about throughout the election cycle.”

He said he wants to start a “Chris Fields Foundation,” which would be a project designed to promote better student performance, job opportunities and health fairs.

“It’s an organization designed to meet the needs of the local community here,” he said.

Fields and his team plan to reach out to different people in the next month with information about his prospective goals, he said.

“We’re currently working to put things together and looking at different proposals,” Fields said. “I think when we unveil the projects people will be pretty excited about the stuff we are doing.”

They hope to finalize their strategies before next year, he said.

As far as the campaign office, the full-time employees are “in the process of tying all the loose ends up” and expect to close by the end of the week, campaign manager Erica Shumack said.

She said Fields will continue to be active in the community.

“He is pursuing to be an active community member of the 5th Congressional District.”


Future for the district

Fields and Ellison often sparred during the campaign.

Jacobs said their race was one of the “nastiest” he has seen in the district. Their three debates often escalated into aggressive name-calling that focused on personal issues of both candidates.

But with the election over, Fields said “it’s now time to support those who have been elected” and hold them accountable for the promises they made while campaigning for their offices.

“Once again, Congressman Ellison and the DFL state Legislature were given the opportunity by the voters to get it right,” Fields said. “If they don’t get it right, we’re going to pay.”

He said he hopes for progress and that the recently elected officials “face the issues most relevant to the 5th Congressional District.”

Lowering tuition at the University of Minnesota, creating jobs for new graduates, improving life for senior citizens and lowering unemployment rates are the issues Fields said he would like to see move forward in the district with Ellison’s next term.

“I’m certainly not putting a standard on them that they haven’t put on themselves,” Fields said. “These are things they promised, and now we are going to see if they deliver.”

Fields said he hasn’t ruled out the option of running in another election.

“What I want to see for now is everyone get on board and support our new elected officials,” Fields said. “They have the opportunity; let’s hope they do something with that opportunity.

“If they don’t, we need to take action in 2014.”