Editor’s Note: This article was updated with comment from Peg Schaffer at 7:43 p.m. It was updated again with further comment from Schaffer at 3:11 p.m. Wednesday.
Somerset County Freeholder Pat Walsh called on her Democratic challenger to denounce an appearance of a former Democratic National Committee vice-chairman at a Somerset Federation of Democratic Women dinner.
During his 2018 campaign, a former girlfriend accused Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who was the DNC’s number two from Feb. 27, 2017, to Nov. 8, 2018, of domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is never acceptable and it takes a truly sick person to lay hands on their loved ones. I’m incredibly disheartened by the Somerset County Federation of Democratic Women’s invitation to have Mr. Ellison appear as a special guest at their Annual Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner,” Freeholder Pat Walsh said. “I’ve championed elevating the status of women throughout my entire career, and to see how tone deaf the Democrats are by extending an invite to Mr. Ellison infuriates me.”
In 2018, Austin Monahan, the son of Ellison’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan, posted on social media that he had found a video of Ellison dragging his mother off a bed and screaming profanities at her.
The elder Monahan said the allegations were accurate but did not release the video.
Ellison has consistently denied the allegations, saying the video does not exist because I never behaved in this way,” but that did little to stop Republicans from battering Minnesota Democrats with the allegations.
Somerset County Democratic Chairwoman Peg Schaffer did not denounce Ellison.
“Pat Walsh? Really? First of all, these are allegations that have been reviewed and debunked by every news organization in the country,” Schaffer said. “Following that, voters made their own evaluation and he was elected. And since the election, he’s now leading the Attorneys Generals’ movement to fight restrictions placed by extremists on reproductive freedom.
The allegations against Ellison were never debunked or tried in a court of law.
In September 2018, Ellison asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate the allegations against him, but no such investigation occurred before Ellison left his post after winning his race for attorney general.
“Was [Pat Walsh] also ‘upset, appalled, and shocked’ when Republicans voted against Equal Pay, or vilified organizations such as Planned Parenthood, or rallied to support Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, or when they ignored the cries of mothers from Newtown?” Schaffer said. “Of course not, because she doesn’t really care about standing up for women.”
Walsh, who is the only Somerset County Freeholder seeking re-election this year, is aiming to bring those allegations into her race against former Green Brook Mayor Melonie Marano.
“A history of allegations of domestic violence should be enough to have any organization steer clear of the accused,” Walsh said. “I’m upset, appalled, and most importantly shocked, that the Democrats would even consider inviting Ellison.”
First Lady Tammy Murphy was on the bill for the federation dinner, though it’s unclear if she and Ellison spoke or were there at the same time.
“It takes true courage to step forward and stare down one’s accuser,” Somerset County GOP executive director Janet Linnus said. “Eleanor Roosevelt was a champion of women’s rights and chaired the Kennedy administration’s Presidential Commission on the Status of Women – unfortunately, I can only imagine how she would feel knowing her dinner was headlined by an individual with a track record of domestic violence.”