By STEVE KARNOWSKI Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Jason Lewis jumped into Minnesota’s Senate race Thursday with a campaign video that attacked the state’s freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar and the so-called “resistance” to President Donald Trump.
Lewis, a former conservative radio host who lost his House re-election bid in 2018, went hard at the nation’s current political and cultural divisions in the video posted to YouTube. He criticized what he called a “radical political movement that seems to be gaining steam,” and took aim at liberals he said want to do away with border walls, abolish capitalism and kill jobs with Green New Deals.
He sought to tie Democratic Sen. Tina Smith to Omar, who has become a frequent target of Trump.
“Indeed, the so-called resistance, led by our own Ilhan Omar, with Tina Smith marching in lockstep, seem unaware of our founders’ genius in the Constitution,” Lewis said in the video. “Instead, they want to debate whether we ought to even keep it.”
Smith was appointed to the seat in January 2018 after Democrat Al Franken resigned over sexual misconduct allegations. She retained the seat in a special election that November and is now running for her own six-year term.
State and national Democrats rushed to attack Lewis. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said Lewis will “have to explain the disgusting comments surfaced from his right-wing radio days attacking and disparaging women, minorities, the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.”
He once asked, “Are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?” And he once mused: “Call me a Neanderthal … but we’ve rushed to this judgment that growing up with two mommies is a wonderful experience. I don’t know, maybe it’s not so wonderful.”
Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party highlighted votes Lewis took as a House member to end guaranteed health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and for Republican-led tax changes they said benefited the wealthy.
Lewis, a conservative former talk radio host who styled himself on the air as “Mr. Right,” narrowly won election to a suburban-rural congressional seat in 2016 over Democrat Angie Craig, by less than 2 percentage points in a year when Trump carried the district by just over 1 point. In their 2018 rematch, Craig ousted Lewis by nearly 6 points amid a suburban surge for Democrats across the country that flipped the House to Democratic control.
While Lewis’ “two mommies” was offensive to Craig, a married lesbian mother of four sons, she made relatively little mention of it during the 2018 campaign, when she kept her focus on health care and Lewis’s strong support for Trump.
Lewis left open the possibility of trying to retake the seat, but in recent weeks it became increasingly clear that he was more interested in trying to oust Smith, who was lieutenant governor until then-Gov. Mark Dayton appointed her to fill out the remaining two years of Sen. Al Franken’s term after he resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations.
“Senator Smith has a record of working hard for the people of Minnesota, taking on powerful special interests and working across the aisle to get things done, whether it’s fighting to protect health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, standing up to the big drug companies to lower prescription drug prices or making sure young people have the skills they need to fill high-demand jobs,” Smith’s campaign manager Ryan Furlong said in a statement.
Associated Press writer Doug Glass contributed.
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