After early momentum, Keith Ellison gets some pushback in his bid to lead DNC

Keith Ellison quickly got the support of some big-name progressives – but opposition is starting to build up.
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Keith Ellison's run to lead the Democratic Party built up quick momentum, with support from high-profile progressive Democrats such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer.

But questions about whether he's the right person for the job are bubbling up, with the time commitment, his past ties to a religious group, and opposition from establishment Democrats all building.

The New York Times Tuesday wrote about how entrenched Democrats – specifically those who are tight with Obama's White House – have concerns.

One part of it is worry that the Democratic Party will be led by someone who is staunchly progressive, maybe more so than most Americans. Ellison is a leader of the Progressive Caucus.

There's also the question of whether he can be the DNC head and serve in Congress at the same time – some have suggested it's a full-time job and should be someone's sole focus. But Ellison brushed that off earlier this month, telling NBC’s Meet the Press he thinks he could balance both.

Another part of the worry comes from his past ties to Louis Farrakhan. And the New York Times says that, when Ellison learned reporters planned to question him about those ties, he canceled his interview with them.

Farrakhan is the head of Nation of Islam, a "political and Islamic movement" that dates back to 1930. Over the past 30-plus years, Farrakhan has been criticized for comments seen as anti-Semitic, anti-white, and more. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers it an extremist group.

When Ellison was a student at the University of Minnesota around 1990, he wrote articles defending Farrakhan. And he worked with Nation of Islam for about 18 months, the Washington Post reported in a 2006 story about his first run for U.S. Congress. At that time, he also apologized for his defense of Farrakhan, and said he should have realized Farrakhan's anti-Semitic words.

In recent days, both Tablet (an online Jewish magazine) and the Weekly Standard (a conservative-leaning news source) have brought up Ellison's past – his support of Farrkahan, his ties to Nation of Islam, and his statements on the country of Israel.

Ellison, in a response sent to Tablet, said this:

"I have long supported a two-state solution and a democratic and secure state for the Jewish people, with a democratic and viable Palestinian state side-by-side in peace and dignity. I don’t believe boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning Israel helps us achieve that goal. I supported the Democratic Platform, which embraces this position."

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