Jeremiah Ellison is more artist than politician

Before he was elected to the Minneapolis City Council in 2017, Jeremiah Ellison had carved out a niche for himself as a freelance muralist and aspiring comic book artist for schools and businesses in the city. The last mural he painted — a job overlapping with the tail end of a grueling campaign — was for a pediatric dental practice called Camp Smile, which, to Ellison, evoked “the name of a dentist-themed horror movie.” 

Because he was so short on time, Ellison showed up to the gig without having planned out what he would draw and rendered a series of creepy vignettes, scattering a few anthropomorphic electric toothbrushes with arms, legs and wings around a giant toothpaste tube unfurling a colorful striped ribbon. “It came out really weird,” Ellison, 30, recalled in a series of interviews with Jewish Insider this summer. “I knew the client didn’t like it.”

Still, Ellison found the experience of unloading his ideas directly onto the final surface to be a refreshing change from the usual process of coming up with a design beforehand and then getting it approved. “It always feels really dynamic on the page,” he mused, “and then it loses something in translation when you get it up onto the wall.”

In a way, Ellison could also have been talking about his time as a city councilman representing Minneapolis’s Fifth Ward, where he was born and raised. The activist-turned-politician came to prominence as a public figure five years ago, when he appeared in a viral photo while protesting the police killing of a young, unarmed Black man, Jamar Clark. Though Ellison once defiantly addressed city councilmembers with his back to them, he has taken a somewhat more measured approach since joining their ranks in 2018.

Not that Ellison is new to politics by any means. As the son of Keith Ellison — Minnesota’s attorney general and a former congressman — he is attuned to the vicissitudes of governance. But it is one thing to watch from afar and quite another to do it day in and day out. When he was elected, Ellison hoped to focus on housing equality and economic development at the hyperlocal level. “That’s sort of where I really wanted to stake my claim,” he said. 

But he has shifted his priorities as the pandemic has taken its toll — his grandmother died from the coronavirus — and as mass protests against George Floyd’s murder have set off a national reckoning over the role of the police. In Minneapolis, Ellison has led the charge to introduce a charter amendment that would replace the city’s police department with a new public safety system, but those plans were put on hold when the city’s charter commission blocked the proposal from appearing on the ballot until next year.

His activism notwithstanding, Ellison rejects the notion that he is seeking to eradicate the police. “Abolishing the police department is certainly the goal of activists in the community,” he said. “Not that I’m against that concept. I just don’t think it’s what the council is doing at the moment. I don’t even think it’s anywhere close to that.” 

Ellison describes the effort in different terms. “We are looking to reimagine how public safety happens in our city,” he said. “But the simple fact is law enforcement, at least for the foreseeable future, is still going to be, probably, a significant part of that.”

Jeremiah Ellison speaks during the North Minneapolis City Council Candidate Forum on February 16, 2017. (Tony Webster)

Ellison talks about this issue with a fluency that suggests he was made to address the policing crisis. But in conversation with JI, he also appeared to be exasperated by some of the structural challenges ahead of him, such as qualified immunity and arbitration statutes that have protected police officers from wrongdoing.

“These are things that will drive you to a point of frustration pretty quickly when you’re realizing that you can’t hold people accountable in the way that they deserve to be held accountable,” Ellison said with a sigh, lamenting the lack of control he once possessed with a paintbrush. “I don’t necessarily feel made for this moment in any kind of way. But I do feel like it’s important that I answer the call when I’m being asked to keep my community as safe as possible.”

Despite that goal, Ellison also expressed a strong and persistent desire to give it all up and return to his old vocation, even if he is the scion of one of the most powerful politicians in Minnesota politics. In the art world, at least, his ideas would be unadulterated by the vexing challenge of legislation. “Certainly, when I’ve wrapped here, my plan, my hope,” he said matter-of-factly, “is that I can go back to drawing comics.”

***

Ellison has always defined himself as an artist, which his parents encouraged from a young age. “When he was a little kid, he used to paint and draw on the walls,” Keith Ellison told JI in a phone conversation. “We had to tape paper up on the walls so he would write on the paper and not the walls. This was when he was a tiny little boy, like two or three years old. He just kept doing it, and so we put him in an arts class.”

The class was with Juxtaposition Arts, a prominent non-profit visual arts organization in North Minneapolis. “He was our youngest student,” said Roger Cummings, a co-founder of Juxtaposition, adding that Ellison, who joined at age six, learned to develop his analytical faculties by critiquing and interpreting his classmates’ works before he had reached adolescence. 

Ellison was also taught that making a mural was as much an artistic statement as it was an exercise in community engagement. “What we try to do is give different levels of responsibility to young people,” Cummings explained, mentioning such extra-artistic tasks as securing the wall, talking to the business owner and creating a design that takes into account those who live and work in the area.

Even with that civic-minded training, Ellison was not immediately moved to go into public service. “When we were younger — 16, 17 — he was really adamant that he did not want to go into politics,” said Michael Lee, who is one of Ellison’s best friends from high school, noting that Ellison’s father had been elected to Congress the year after they got to know each other. Still, Lee added that Ellison had changed his mind when they spoke years later. “His understanding of public service and politics comes out of his orientation toward art and storytelling.”

Ellison, who dropped out of college after about one semester, has brought that sensibility to the city council. “He’s not locked into convention,” his father told JI. His mother, Kim Ellison, who chairs the Minneapolis Board of Education, agreed. “If he didn’t have blank paper and pencil in front of him, he wasn’t focused — that was part of everything he did or any space he was in,” she told JI. “Even now, in his office or in his house, he’ll have a whiteboard. He’s got to write down his thoughts and be able to see them.”

Lisa Goodman, a city councilmember who sits next to Ellison on the dais whenever the council meets in person — which isn’t often these days — described Ellison as a “creative, nervous doodler” who could often be seen scribbling away on a piece of paper during council presentations. “He lets out his anxiety and energy through art,” she said. 

Though Ellison and Goodman disagree on several policy issues — including the police — Goodman said that she has managed to find common ground with her young colleague despite their differences. 

Jeremiah Ellison speaks with constituents in Minneapolis. (Courtesy)

In the fall of 2019, Goodman, who is Jewish, invited Ellison, a Muslim, to a Friday night service at Temple Israel, a Reform synagogue she regularly attends in Minneapolis. “In Minnesota, Jews and Muslims are not the predominant religion, and so I found commonality with him in that, and I was really honored that he agreed to come with me to synagogue,” she told JI. “He immediately accepted my invitation, showed up on time and sat with me and prayed.”

Ellison, who serves a section of Minneapolis that was once home to a sizable Jewish population, recalled the service with a sense of appreciation. “It was very social justice–centered, and there was this strong sense of solidarity that I felt, especially sitting next to Lisa Goodman, who I had been told would be an intense political enemy.”

Ellison believes Judaism and Islam are “incredibly compatible,” given, for one, that they are both Abrahamic religions. “I also think that, politically, the two religions sort of exist under a certain level of threat in America,” he said. “It can be difficult to recognize that when you have prominent sort of, quote unquote, Islamic figures who are openly antisemitic.”

He was referring, in large part, to the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who is widely viewed as an antisemite. But Ellison’s appraisal is complicated by the fact that his father once supported Farrakhan and defended him in law school newspaper columns. 

Though Keith Ellison — who was the first Muslim to serve in Congress in 2007 — has since renounced Farrakhan, his affiliation with the controversial leader, as well as some of his past statements on Israel, have come back to haunt him, particularly when, in 2016, he ran for chair of the Democratic National Committee. While Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) endorsed Ellison, Haim Saban, the powerful Democratic donor, refused to get behind him, characterizing Ellison as “an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual.”

***

Ellison is, of course, aware of his father’s uneasy relationship with some high-profile members of the Jewish community, but he doesn’t feel constrained by it. “I think, personality-wise, my dad is a bit extroverted,” he said. “I’m more introverted, which is probably the only reason that I don’t have a bunch of controversial things that people know I said when I was in my early 20s.”

“I don’t feel any pressure because of my relationship with my dad,” he added. “I have a level of urgency to remember that I don’t know everything. At 21, I probably would have very decidedly spoken about my support for Palestine, which I still hold, without much regard for any understanding of antisemitism. Now, I’m building relationships with people in my community. I’m building relationships with my colleagues who are helping me consider things that I just quite honestly hadn’t considered before.”

Steve Fletcher, another Jewish Minneapolis city councilmember who was elected the same year as Ellison, is one of those colleagues. He described Ellison as a strong ally who was capable of detecting instances of antisemitism when they entered the public discourse. 

“I’m an advocate for smart housing and density in the urban core, and every once in a while somebody who opposed adding more dense housing would say to me, ‘Go back to New York,’ and I’m not from New York,” Fletcher recalled. “It just felt a little coded. It was something that I noticed, and that Jeremiah noticed. He picked up on it right away.”

Still, Ellison acknowledged that he has approached the issue with a learning curve. “There have been points where elected leaders who I’m fond of, who I have a good relationship with, have said things that I didn’t understand to be antisemitic,” he said, “and it’s been through conversations with people like Lisa and Steve Fletcher, in particular, where I feel like I have come to understand antisemitism a lot better than I think I really did.”

“I’m Muslim, so solidarity with people in Palestine is something that has been a crucial part of my politics,” Ellison elaborated. “I think that understanding where that line is and when you do cross that line between being critical of the way a government functions versus assigning these characteristics, these caricatures, to a religion, a people, I think that I needed to grow in understanding what that line was myself. And I think that I have grown.”

Ellison declined to name names when asked which elected leaders he had in mind. But Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who inherited Keith Ellison’s seat in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district when he ran for attorney general, is a friend of the young city councilman and has been accused of making antisemitic remarks.

“Ilhan has had to learn the hard way what that line is between being, I think, appropriately critical of a government’s policies versus saying things that are antisemitic,” he said of the congresswoman, who endorsed Ellison during his run for City Council when she was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. “While I still unequivocally support Ilhan and her reelection, and want to support her in her growth as a young congressperson, I also think I understand that there’s probably still some learning and a little bit of remedy that needs to occur between her and a lot of folks of Jewish faith here in Minnesota.”

For his part, Ellison said he is still working out some of his beliefs when it comes to Israel. He declined to take a stand, for instance, regarding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. 

“To be fully honest, I wouldn’t condemn the BDS movement just because I understand, I think, the impulses of a lot of the people I know who are participating in it and who do believe in it,” he said, adding, “I would want to make sure that I fully understand the ways in which that movement could be interpreted as antisemitic, whereas I gotta acknowledge right now, I don’t fully understand where that line is as it pertains to BDS.”

Still, he expressed a strong desire to visit Israel as well as the Palestinian territories, if given the chance to do so. “It’s just an important part of the world to engage with,” he said, “and I think it’s important to sort of be on the ground. I think that you always learn more on the ground.”

Jeremiah Ellison speaking
Jeremiah Ellison speaks in front of a mural at a Minneapolis skate park.

***

For the moment, though, Ellison appears intent on staying put in his home city, where, as a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, his first term ends in 2022. While his tone suggested that he would most likely run for a second term, he also indicated he would be happy to pass the mantle to another public servant when he felt the time was right. He certainly has no intention of running for higher office, he said. “I don’t want to be mayor.”

Though such statements should be taken with a grain of incredulity — he is a politician, after all — Ellison appeared genuinely intent on getting back in touch with his artistic side and abandoning politics altogether when the time is right. 

“Without putting a date on it, I think me deciding to wrap up this position will have less to do with whether or not I think I’m ready, and I think it’ll have more to do with how good of a job I do in fostering new political talent that centers the work more than the title, that centers the community more than their own advancement,” he said. “Those are the things I care about. I’m gonna be doing well either way. I made a living as a muralist.”

Ellison regards his muraling as separate from his political endeavors. He quotes a role model, the Chicago artist Theaster Gates, to bolster his point: “I would never make a mural to solve a social problem.” 

“I think muraling is really important, but I also think that there’s a real limitation to murals that doesn’t really dishonor them,” he said. “I still think that murals are really necessary, but the thing that I always found as a mural artist was that murals are often like pins on a map. I think the best murals maybe tell a story of a neighborhood — and certainly murals that ignite that activist sort of impulse tell a story and they point to an issue.”

In his time on the city council, Ellison has nevertheless made efforts to marry his past life as an artist with his current role as an elected official, but he hasn’t yet found a spare moment to do so effectively. “I will tell you, there have been times where I’ve tried to pick up a project,” he told JI. “I’ve thought about doing almost, like, a very relatable local government explainer via comic. It gets so hard to actually sit down and write and draw when you’re in the day-to-day of this job.”

For now, Ellison is focused on the day-to-day. “I just try to do my job,” he said. “My job is to keep people safe. The police murdered George Floyd and then the police also escalated tensions with protesters until things obviously got untenable. And so that’s my focus.”

Susan Segal, who was recently appointed chief judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals and who previously served as Minneapolis’s city attorney, told JI Ellison had been a thoughtful councilman during the brief time she worked with him. “He asked questions and wanted information, and he’s a good listener, so I really enjoyed my time working with him,” said Segal, who hosted Ellison and his father for a Passover Seder not too long ago. “He was a good client in the sense that he asked for legal advice and he followed it.”

But it remains to be seen how long being a public servant will be his focus. “A few years ago, he was happy painting, doing graphic novels, painting murals, part of the whole Minneapolis art scene,” Keith Ellison told JI. “He’s been painting murals since he was literally three years old. And it’s his passion. It’s what he really is here to do.” He added, “I think Jeremiah could do more things in politics. But the question is, does he want to? And so I think, at this point in his life, he’s happy to do public service, but I think his real heart is in the arts world.”

Ellison isn’t denying his father’s assessment. “I’ll tell you, as much as I am honored to do this job,” he said, “I do like painting murals more.”

The mayor of Minneapolis reflects on a tumultuous few months

It hasn’t been an easy few months for Jacob Frey. 

The 38-year-old Minneapolis mayor, a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, saw his city unravel this spring as demonstrators took to the streets en masse to protest the killing of George Floyd. Frey, who is more than two years into his first term, ran on a campaign to reform the police department, and he supports the structural changes that activists have called for. 

But on a Saturday in early June, he was booed out of a public demonstration in a tense moment that made national news. Asked by a woman standing on a stage before him if he would commit to defunding the police, Frey, in a baseball tee and a black mask hanging loosely on his face, shook his head. “I do not support the full abolition of the police department,” he said quietly to a hushed crowd which, with prodding from his interlocutor, erupted in anger.

“Go home, Jacob, go home!” the protestors yelled in unison as Frey exited the throng, his arms hanging limply at his sides. “Shame, shame, shame!” they yelled later. Reflecting on the episode a month later, Frey seemed calm and composed during his interview with Jewish Insider. “These issues are controversial and they’re tough,” he said. “But that’s what I love.” 

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

What’s going on in your world?

As mayor, the days are always incredibly busy. But when you have one crisis sandwiched on top of another sandwiched on top of another, it’s all around the clock. So now we’ve got, obviously, a homeless crisis on top of an economic downturn, a budgetary crisis on top of a public health emergency, and then, of course, George Floyd, so it’s all of those things kind of compounded on one another. 

The mood in the city was pretty tense not too long ago. What does it feel like now?

There is a sense of urgency to see clear action on everything from economic inclusion to deep structural reform to our police department to addressing our housing crisis. I have that sentiment along with them. There’s a lot of pain and anger and frustration that is not limited to the killing of George Floyd, but obviously includes it. And it’s our task now to harness all of that energy and channel it to something productive, which is what we’re working toward right now.

The Minnesota state legislature just announced some police accountability measures. Do you think they go far enough?

No, not at all. We can go through all sorts of different policy reforms, but culture eats policy for breakfast, and we need a massive culture shift in how our police department, and, frankly, police departments around the country, operate. Culture is about people; it’s about personnel. And so what we need is to have the ability to bring in the officers who have the right mentality, who are subscribing to our chief’s notion of integrity and service and compassion. We need the ability to get out officers that do not have that mentality, and right now we have major impediments in the form of the collective bargaining agreement and the police union contract. 

But for purposes of the state legislature, most importantly, there’s an arbitration provision which requires [that] instances of termination or discipline get appealed up to this arbitration. And around 50% of the cases get returned right back to our police department. So we can terminate and discipline someone, but that person oftentimes gets sent right back to the police departments to continue damaging trust with the community. We need the ability to terminate and discipline, and this is a major impediment. So that was the big thing that they did nothing on.

Where do you stand on police reform now? Do you still think that defunding the police is a bad idea? 

When people say the word defunding, there are some who actually want to get rid of all police and there are some who just want to have changes where we have safety beyond policing. So here’s where I am: If we’re talking about safety beyond policing, I’m all on board. If we’re talking about having mental health co-responders respond to calls as opposed to officers, or with officers, I’m all on board with that, and in fact, we have a mental health co-responder program citywide. If we’re talking about social workers, to the extent we can have social workers take some of the calls that police would otherwise do — assuming the incident is safe — absolutely. If we’re talking about decriminalizing addiction, again, I’m on board. But if we’re talking about just abolishing all police, all law enforcement — no, I’m not. That’s not something that — I mean, we still do need law enforcement to address and to respond to serious and dangerous incidents that take place in our city. 

Can you give a rundown of what happened in June, from your perspective?

There was a group of protesters that came to my home, and they asked me to come out. I came out to sit with them — and, of course, I’m very supportive of deep structural change. I called for the termination of the officers and for the charging of Derek Chauvin, I did that right away — and then at some point they called me up front. They asked me, would I commit to defunding the police, and I asked — you can watch the video — I asked what they mean by that because I wanted to make sure that I was being clear. And the response was, “We don’t want police. No more police. Get the police off the streets. We want no more police in our neighborhoods ever.” That was the response. And I answered honestly. These are difficult times and my first responsibility is to be honest and to do the right thing, and as difficult as it was, it was the right thing to do.

What was going through your head in that moment? Were you frightened, or nervous?

No. I mean, obviously, it was a tense moment. But no, I stand by my values, and I tell the truth no matter who I’m talking to. And I did. And if you can ground yourself in that, that’s all you can do. It’s what you do. And by the way, since then, the support I’ve gotten has been constant. The support from telling the truth, in that particular event, especially from our Black community, has been overwhelming. 

Were you surprised when they started chanting “shame!” at you? It seems so medieval. 

As mayor, you’re frequently a focal point and a target from all sides. The top two criticisms that you get are too much force/not enough force, or too many police/not enough police. In Minneapolis, we have a very activist-oriented and engaged community, so it’s not the first time I’ve been protested and it certainly won’t be the last. I don’t know about surprised. I mean, I was calm. I told the truth. I was calm and I told the truth. By the way, I didn’t leave either. I was there for 45 minutes afterward answering every last question that any reporter or activist had for me. I do not hide from difficult situations just because the optics are tough.

Did you sleep well that night? 

Yeah, I did. 

Any nightmares?

I’ll tell you what, I would not have slept well had I tried to obfuscate or avoided the question or lied. If you tell the truth, you try and do the right thing, you hold your head high and you can sleep at night — and that’s what I did. And sure, it was tough. It’s tougher for your family and friends to see a video like that. But the response that we’ve gotten from the vast majority of my constituents has been very clear, which is, you know, ‘thank you for telling the truth.’ What we hear is people are appreciative of the willingness to go into some of these situations and still be honest.

What was it like inside your house when you were called out?

I was talking with Sarah, my wife — she was also at our home at the time — and she is just a backbone of steel. She’s so tough and courageous and loving. And we were just discussing, all right, what should we do? We don’t presently have security right now. Or at least in any number. What should we do? And she’s like, you do what you always do. You go out there, you listen, you’re compassionate, and you tell the truth.

You and your wife are expecting a baby in September. How does it feel to be bringing a child into this moment in history?

As unfatherly as this may sound, my focus over the last couple of months has very much been on our city. Not only is Sarah pregnant — she’s working full-time, [and] she’s taking the bar exam in a week. And so she’s been studying non-stop, and I’ve been obviously working around the clock as well. Babies usually bring a sense of optimism, of hope, that the next generation will do things better than we have. And that hope, that sense of optimism, is clearly in the back of my head right now, but front of mind is getting through these crises, with a complete transformation to how our city does business.

Rahm Emanuel famously said you should never let a crisis go to waste.

In a way, yes, it is an opportunity to do things differently: to center Black and brown voices, to see through to true economic inclusion. If we utilize both this opportunity and the energy to reshape a system for the better, that’s an outcome that we can be proud of.

Jacob Frey Minneapolis Mayer
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks on July 10, 2020 at a protest by the Oromo people over the unrest in Ethiopia. (Chad Davis/Flickr)

How do you unwind? You’re a runner, right?

I run. Ideally, I’d like to get out the door five times a week or so. I used to run professionally, like as my job, and now it’s really for emotional and physical well-being. Ideally, I get out the door five times a week or so. Not long, but enough to breathe and to sweat, and that certainly helps. I think better, I feel better, I make better decisions when I’m able to get out for runs.

What kind of precautions are you taking to avoid getting the virus, aside from wearing a mask? Do you get tested?

I’m actually going to get tested fairly shortly here. Some of our police administration got the virus — quite a bit of our police administration got COVID-19 — and so I intend to get tested myself. Right now, I’m one of the only people in the office. Much of our connection is done remotely through [Microsoft] Teams or Skype or whatever. And we have a plan that’s instituted at the office for how we still remain relatively socially distant. I’ll say that through certain courses of the pandemic, full social distancing was not possible. And so the likelihood of exposure was almost definite.

Are you saying you were exposed to the virus?

I don’t know that to be the fact. I’m just saying that, during a crisis like the one we faced, you do come into contact with people, inevitably. There were instances where, yes, we had to be closer together.

Like during the protests?

A protest would have been one example, to operating through the emergency operation center, or in the office. Yes, I did come into contact with people. Just to be clear, I’m not saying I was exposed. I’m saying the likelihood is high. 

You attend two Reform synagogues in Minneapolis. Are you a regular, and if so, has it been difficult not being able to go to services recently?

I didn’t go to Shabbat services every week or anything. My wife converted about a year and a half ago. She’s serious. She’s into it. I mean, I’m obviously proud of her and proud to have her as a member of the tribe, but it was not like any sort of pressure from either me or my family. She did so because she wanted to, and she’s informed, she’s well-read, and is very grounded in Jewish thought and philosophy, which I find pretty cool. And so, if anything, she’s been the one to encourage me to attend more often. 

It seems to happen sometimes that people who convert become more devout than their spouses.

That’s definitely the case here.

You’re the second Jewish mayor of Minneapolis, yes?

That is correct. I had previously for a little while thought I was the first, but no, Art Naftalin was also Jewish. Minneapolis, sadly, has a fairly antisemitic history. We have maps to the city that quite literally designate North Minneapolis as a slum for Blacks and Jews. This is dating back, you know, 70 years ago. And Minneapolis is not unique to this, but many law firms in the city — for instance, I believe, including the one that I worked for when I first came out here — previously did not allow Jews. 

Do you feel self-conscious about being a Jewish mayor of a city with that kind of history?

It’s funny. Before, I would say, last year, I had not thought of myself as much as a Jewish mayor. That’s just not how I would have thought of myself. Now, over the last year, the number of antisemitic attacks that we’ve been subjected to has been through the roof, whether it’s from the far right or the far left. Usually, it’s from some of these Donald Trump supporters. Most of them don’t live in Minneapolis. Minneapolis, as you know, is a very progressive city. But the uptick in antisemitic hatred, especially after I asked for Donald Trump to pay his bill, was through the roof.

So that’s changed your perception of yourself?

It has. I don’t know that it’s necessarily changed how I go about my day. I grew up, I would say, quite culturally Jewish but not very religious. You know, I’m not even convinced that my mom believes in God, but she believes firmly in bagels and lox on Sundays. You were there for bagels and lox on Sundays without excuse. And that sort of ethnic and cultural identity, I think, has come to the forefront more over the last year for me personally. I don’t know that it’s really had an impact on my governance, but certainly on a personal level, it has had an impact.

You came to Minneapolis in 2009, and you seem pretty settled there. But could you ever see yourself moving back to your native East Coast? Would you ever want to run for Congress?

I love Minneapolis. God bless congressmembers, and thank you for them, but that’s not my interest. One, because you can kind of work hand-in-hand with the community around a common idea, and it’s complex, it’s controversial. Oftentimes, the most difficult issues get left for cities to handle. And we’re seeing that right now, not just in Minneapolis, but around the country. I mean, you’ve got mayors just getting pummeled. They’re doing their very best — you see it in the news all the time, and these issues are controversial and they’re tough. But that’s what I love. Not to mention, I wouldn’t want to be in Congress just because we’re having a baby, and I don’t want to be flying back and forth between D.C. and Minneapolis. I want to be with my daughter and my wife.

It’s your birthday on Thursday. What are you planning to do?

Right now, nothing. You know, if I could grab a socially distanced beer with a few friends, I’d certainly welcome that. It’s not anything beyond that, though. I mean, 39 is not really a marker, you know? Gosh, before COVID-19 and before all of this — the summers in Minneapolis are extraordinary — and before all this, I was certainly looking forward to enjoying the full scope of summer, with events and activities and Pride Parade and Aquatennial, these big celebrations that we have, and just having this last summer where I don’t have a child and having any freedoms that are associated with that. And it clearly has not worked out that way.

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