Keith Ellison's political career began with controversy over his links to the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, connections that continues to dog him to the present day despite his repeated disavowals. But less commonly known is another radical association of Ellison's: a decade-long relationship with Marxist University of Minnesota professor and 1974 Communist Party gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, Erwin Marquit. Marquit helped launch Ellison's national political career in 2006 using Marquit's political connections, anti-war associations, personal donations, and hosting at least four fundraisers over the years for Ellison in the Marquit home near Cedar Lake in the Bryn Mawr section of Minneapolis.
Marquit, the "state's best-known Communist" according to a Minneapolis Star-Tribune profile published shortly before Marquit's death from cancer in 2015, openly supported Ellison from the start. In his Memoirs of a Lifelong Communist, Marquit wrote that he and his wife Doris actively solicited backing for Ellison as early as May 2006, sought signatures for a letter of support for Ellison that was circulated among anti-Iraq war activists, and hosted the first fundraiser for Ellison in their home in July 2006.
Marquit also went door-to-door for Ellison, also described in his memoirs: