Former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis was endorsed by the Minnesota Republican Party this weekend for the U.S. Senate race, setting him up for a contest with DFLer Sen. Tina Smith in November.
Prior to running for Senate, Lewis represented Minnesota’s Second District from 2017 to 2019. Before that, Lewis was a nationally syndicated radio host, a platform he used to make homophobic and racist remarks, including comparing gay people to rapists and saying black people have “entitlement mentality.” Lewis lost his House seat to Democratic Rep. Angie Craig in 2018 by more than five percentage points.
Lewis won his endorsement with 1,066 votes, or about 72 percent of convention delegates, on the first round of voting, easily defeating opponents Rob Barrett Jr. and Forest Hyatt.
Before the vote, Lewis received ringing endorsements from Republican leaders around Minnesota. “Jason Lewis is a great conservative and he’s already done so much with President Trump and other conservatives to make America great again,” said First District Rep. Jim Hagedorn. “Young voters are really excited about Jason Lewis because we’re confident that he’ll fight for our generations’ futures,” said Minnesota College Republicans Chair Karly Hahn. State Rep. Kelly Fenton, who represents Woodbury in the Legislature, said Lewis was her “go to person” when she needed help from a member of Congress. “I am proud to second the nomination from my good friend Jason Lewis,” she said.
In his speech to the convention, Lewis said he has been in “the trenches” in public service and broadcasting for twenty five years. He said that Minnesotans know him. “They know whether they agree with everything or not,” he said, talking about himself in the third person. “They know he’s sincere and he stands for what he believes.”
Lewis outlined a variety of policy differences with Smith, namely that he doesn’t believe the federal government should fund abortion access. Smith was the Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota in the early 2000s. “We’re going to make the Hyde amendment permanent because regardless of your position on that issue, every American will tell you the taxpayers shouldn’t fund it,” Lewis said, referring to the law that prevents federal funding from being used for abortion services.
“Look at Tina’s Smith’s record on mining, on energy, on logging a great industry for Minnesota,” Lewis said, saying Smith is against major projects like Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline and both the Twin Metals and PolyMet mining projects in Northern Minnesota. “She’s been threatening that with the Democratic agenda and the Green New Deal agenda quite some time.”
Smith has not come out against any of those projects, nor has she endorsed the Green New Deal. Smith has pushed to remove some regulatory obstacles for PolyMet in the past. In terms of Twin Metals, a planned copper-nickel mine near Ely, Smith has advocated for a federal study on the impacts of mining in the area. If the study determines that the mine will pose significant environmental hazards, it could result in 20-year ban on copper-nickel mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Lewis also blamed Democrats in Minnesota for the protests in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd.
“What are the Democrats saying today? They’re blaming you. They’re blaming Trump. They’re blaming anybody but themselves,” Lewis said. “And yet if you take a look at who’s been governing Minneapolis and St. Paul for decades, it has been liberal Democrats.” Lewis said that in not responding to the burning down of the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s residents were denied “due process” in the same way “George Floyd’s due process was denied.”
Lewis also criticized Gov. Tim Walz, saying his COVID-19 stay-at-home order “may go down as a public blunder of untold proportions. The greatest in history.”
Lewis has spent the last several months on an RV tour of Minnesota criticizing Walz’s choice to shut down the state in response to COVID-19. Earlier in May, Lewis’ campaign filed a lawsuit against the governor, saying he was prevented from holding campaign rallies because of the restrictions.
Looking ahead to the general election, Lewis is outmatched in fundraising. So far, Lewis has raised more than $1.3 million for his campaign, while Smith has raised close to $7.5 million.
Smith has spent the last several weeks focused on the Federal response to COVID-19, advocating for a substantial amount of funding for the child care industry, which is on the verge of collapse after state shutdowns around the country.
Since the start of his campaign, Lewis has used his platform to attack Smith’s record and finances, but received little response from the senator. Over the last few days, Smith has instead tweeted about resources residents can use if their home was damaged during the riots and encouraged people to donate to Black Lives Matter.
“Our state and our nation are hurting, yearning for justice,” Smith tweeted on Saturday. “And we’re all looking for ways to be allies and advocates.”