Voter guide: Where the U.S. Senate candidates stand on the issues

A photo collage of Jason Lewis and Tina Smith
Democratic Sen. Tina Smith and Republican-endorsed challenger Jason Lewis.
Photos by Jim Mone and Carolyn Kaster, AP | Illustration by MPR News

The only statewide race on Minnesota’s ballot this fall beyond the presidential contest is the campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat. DFL incumbent Sen. Tina Smith is facing off against former U.S. Rep. and talk show host Jason Lewis.

Here’s a quick look at where they stand on top issues for Minnesotans.

View all the candidates and more answers via our voter guide made in collaboration with the League of Women Voters of Minnesota.

President Trump

Smith: She has been critical of the president on several issues. She sided with House Democrats during impeachment proceedings in 2019 and voted to remove him from office, though she was initially reluctant.

Lewis: He has remained supportive of Trump since aligning with him during his run for state House in 2018. Lewis told MPR News he agrees with the president’s policies regarding the economy, immigration and energy independence. Trump has endorsed Lewis.

Police reform

Smith: Smith does not support defunding police departments but does support some changes to law enforcement, including bans on chokeholds, creating a federal use of force standard and a national registry of police conduct.

Lewis: Despite Smith’s repeated stated opposition to defunding police departments, Lewis maintains that’s what Smith wants to do.  He does not support defunding police departments and has spoken against reform efforts. Lewis contends Minnesotans who live in the suburbs and in rural areas are worried that protest and property destruction in Minneapolis and St. Paul will come to their neighborhoods. 

Gun-control

Smith: Smith supports what she and others call  “common sense” gun reform measures. She has supported legislation that would ban people convicted of stalking from having firearms, expand background checks for  the purchase of all firearms and supported the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019.

Lewis: Lewis prioritizes "preserving and protecting" Second Amendment rights. During his time as a congressman he pushed back on strengthening gun control laws.

COVID-19

Smith: Smith has supported expanded testing and financial aid -- specifically for rural areas, those working in child care, and local governments -- during the pandemic. She supported the first Coronavirus Relief Package earlier this year. Democrats later blocked an additional coronavirus relief package proposed by Republicans, taking issue with provisions on school choice and corporate immunity from some lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Lewis: Lewis has been critical of regulations meant to curb the spread of COVID-19 put in place by Gov. Tim Walz and its impact on businesses. He filed to sue the governor, arguing that restrictions violate his ability to campaign.

Health Care

Smith: She has listed bringing down the high price of prescription drugs as a priority and would build on the Affordable Care Act. She opposes efforts to reduce funding to Medicaid or Medicare, though she does not advocate Medicare-for-all.

Lewis: He supports efforts focused on lowering premiums, deductibles, and copays. Lewis opposes a “single-payer, government-driven system.” He also wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Education

Smith: Smith wants to address education disparities and supports job training and technical training as a viable alternative to a four-year degree from a university. She supports more funding for community and technical colleges and co-sponsored a bill to help college graduates refinance student loans.

Lewis: Lewis also supports increased focus on technical education. He introduced an amendment that became law to require consideration of dual-enrollment efforts in career and technical education during a revamp of the Perkins Act in 2017.

Immigration

Smith: She has worked on legislation to provide a path to citizenship for qualifying Liberians and was critical of the Trump administration’s lack of action to keep the Deferred Enforcement Departure program going. She is in support of “fiscally efficient methods to secure our border” and is critical of a lack of resources she says slows down the immigration system.

Lewis: He supports the Mexico border wall and “stopping this influx of illegal immigration.” During a town hall earlier this year, Lewis supported Beltrami County’s decision to ban refugee resettlement there.

Abortion

Smith: She is pro-choice, has worked for Planned Parenthood and has made women’s health and child care assistance key issues in her campaign.

Lewis: He previously voted to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and to ban federal funding for abortion or health coverage including abortions. He has been endorsed by the group Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.

Jobs and Economy

Smith: Smith plans to focus on building a better medical supply chain in the U.S., providing more aid to families in need during the pandemic, increased worker training and green energy jobs. Closing the gender pay gap and providing better child care for workers are also on her list of priorities.

Lewis: Lewis has pointed to the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline  and new precious metal mining as ways to create new jobs and strengthen Minnesota’s economy. As a member of Congress, he voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and supports “robust infrastructure development.

Climate change

Smith: She supports investing in clean energy technology, legislative efforts to encourage conservation practices for farmers and introduced the Clean Energy Standard Act that establishes a federal clean energy standard.

Lewis: He says that you can have a healthy environment while still operating “reasonable mining and energy projects and logging” and has been critical of efforts to stop such projects in northern Minnesota. He supports classifying forest biomass as a renewable resource.

Taxes and gov't spending

Smith: Smith wants to give additional support to small businesses and entrepreneurs. She also supports changing the tax code that benefits families over “the wealthiest Americans.”

Lewis: Lewis is in support of tax and spending cuts. He voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017. He also supports cutting taxes as a way to encourage new businesses to come to the state.

Marijuana

Smith: She supports the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults.

Lewis: He believes marijuana regulations should be up to individual states.

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