Jason Lewis won the 2nd Congressional District GOP primary Tuesday in a four-way race that caught the eye of national political observers, even if it didn’t make a whole lot of noise over the last few months.
The lack of statewide races and a beautiful summer day explain the low statewide turnout of 7 percent, but in the 2nd Congressional District, money – or the decision not to spend much of it – was another reason the race didn’t generate as much attention as one might expect.
Luke Hellier, a GOP activist in the district, said he received only one piece of mail on behalf of Lewis, a few pieces of mail from candidate Darlene Miller, and no get-out-the-vote calls. “It was a low-spending race,” he said. “And maybe it was a strategic move on Lewis’s part.”
It was, according to Lewis’s campaign manager, Jack Dwyer. “We tried to be diligent,” he said. “We didn’t want to spend every dollar when our main goal is winning in November.” Dwyer said Lewis’s victory owed as much to the GOP endorsement and Lewis’s good relationship with conservative voters as direct mail and advertising.
But now, Lewis heads into the general election and must make a major leap in fundraising to keep pace with his DFL opponent, Angie Craig. She has raised $2.5 million, and still has most of it on hand. Lewis didn’t spend much to win the primary, but he also didn’t raise that much, about $350,000.
Craig will also get ample assistance from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has earmarked as much as three million dollars for advertising in the 2nd Congressional District. The ads most certainly will use Lewis provocative comments from his days as a talk radio host to portray him has a far-right demagogue.
Lewis will get his own assist from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is prepared to spend money on this race to depict Craig as far too liberal, even in a swing district like the second. But Lewis will still need his own funds. “He needs to get out there early to define who he is, to show him as a dad, and a businessman — before the Democrats paint a different picture,” Hellier said.
In short, with Craig ready to do battle, Lewis will need to make a lot more noise than he did in the primary. And voters can expect to be pummeled with political persuasion from both sides.