Jason Lewis wins GOP nod to take on Sen. Tina Smith

A man smiles.
Former GOP U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis announces that he is running for United States Senate at the opening day of the Minnesota State Fair on Aug 22, 2019.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News 2019

Minnesota Republicans have endorsed former talk show host and Rep. Jason Lewis as their Senate candidate to challenge incumbent DFL Sen. Tina Smith in November.

Delegates made the selection Saturday during an online state convention that was delayed two weeks due to technical problems. That delay gave Republicans a new batch of current events, and they spent much of the convention time criticizing DFL Gov. Tim Walz and other Democrats for their response to violence and civil unrest in the Twin Cities.

Lewis pushed the theme during his speech to delegates.

“Look at what’s happened to the metro area in the last few nights,” Lewis said. “Not only did they not have a plan, when they had a plan it was to retreat.”

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Multiple convention speakers also used their time to criticize Walz.

Sixth District U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer said it was a case of failed leadership.

“Tim Walz is trying to blame now white nationalists,” Emmer said. “He’s trying to blame others for his incompetence.”

Minnesota House Minority leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, accused the governor of putting Minnesotans in danger.

“The problem is he didn’t start from the beginning with enough force to show we were serious about protecting Minnesotans,” Daudt said.

Lewis spent most of his career as a conservative radio talk show host. He spent two years in Congress before being defeated by Democrat Angie Craig in 2018. He believes Republicans can achieve what President Trump came close to in 2016 and turn Minnesota into a red state on the presidential map.

Lewis stressed his alignment on issues with the president, who has endorsed his candidacy. He said Smith is too liberal for Minnesota, calling her the poster child for a “revolutionary, radical resistance agenda.” He criticized her views on abortion, mining and other issues.

“She’s trying to impose her Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi agenda on Minnesota,” he said.

The endorsement for Lewis came on the first ballot. Forest Hyatt and Rob Barrett were also candidates.

The Minnesota DFL postponed its weekend remote convention. But the endorsement balloting for Senate was already well underway. The DFL results could be announced Monday.

Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin announced the postponement Friday.

“This was the only appropriate course of action given the grief and anger gripping much of our state and nation following the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent unrest sweeping the Twin Cities,” Martin said. “Now is not the time for a partisan political rally.”