Campaigns

Former Republican congressman and inflammatory radio host Jason Lewis to run for Senate

Trump team hopes running ‘Mini Trump’ candidate will ramp up turnout in a key presidential state

Former Rep. Jason Lewis will challenge Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, he announced Thursday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A former Republican congressman and conservative radio personality with a history of inflammatory remarks will challenge Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith

Former Rep. Jason Lewis, who served one term in Congress and worked for 25 years as a radio personality, will run against Smith, he announced Thursday. 

Lewis launched a campaign website that boasts his conservative bona fides, including having prioritized tax and spending cuts on the House Budget Committee and having published a book about “the importance of local units of government to our republic.”

Smith was first appointed to her seat after former Sen. Al Franken resigned because of sexual harassment allegations in February 2018 before winning a special election in November to serve out the duration of Franken’s term. 

[How Minnesota Told a Bigger Story About 2018 Midterm Partisanship]

Lewis hosted his namesake syndicated radio program for five years. He used the platform to stoke racial animus with remarks about the Latino birth rate outpacing the birth rate of whites, and degrade women, endorsing applying the word “slut” to demean women who are the victims of sexual harassment and describing women voters as “non-thinking,” among other derogatory statements. His writing on slavery has also been a source of controversy. 

The Trump 2020 team hopes running a candidate in the president’s incendiary mold — Democrats call Lewis the “mini-Trump” of Minnesota — will ramp up conservative turnout in the key swing state, Politico reported. Two of Lewis’ top advisers are also consultants to the Trump campaign. Hillary Clinton notched the state by less than 2 percentage points in 2016. 

The Lewis campaign's Facebook page displays a banner photo of the candidate and Trump in an embrace. 

Lewis adopted one of the president’s frequent targets, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, in his statement announcing his candidacy. 

“I refuse to sit back on the sidelines and watch our state, country, and way of life continue to come under blistering attack from radical politicians like Ilhan Omar and her footsoldier Tina Smith,” Lewis said in a statement. “I’m going to fight back. That’s why today I am proud to announce my candidacy for the United States Senate.”

Smith responded swiftly to the announcement with a new fundraising push on the Democratic clearinghouse for small donors, ActBlue. The pitch referred to Lewis as having “documented views that are deeply offensive and a record of siding with powerful special interests.”

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