During his radio host days, Jason Lewis ranted about how young women are more concerned with birth control and abortion than economics, characterized Hurricane Katrina victims as “a bunch of whiners,” and questioned whether the Union had just cause to end slavery by fighting the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Those sorts of comments are an opposition researcher’s dream and dominated news coverage of Lewis’ congressional campaign early this year. They drew a rebuke from the Minnesota Republican Party’s deputy chairman and prompted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to create a “Never Lewis” website. Yet over the weekend, Lewis won the Republican Party’s endorsement for the Minnesota 2nd congressional district seat being vacated by retiring Rep. John Kline (R-MN).
Receiving the endorsement means Lewis officially has the Republican Party’s backing. It doesn’t guarantee him anything, as it appears likely he’ll still be challenged in a GOP primary this summer that he’ll have to win in order to advance to the general contest. But with Lewis’ main Republican challenger during Saturday’s convention saying he’ll abide by the party’s endorsement and support Lewis, the former radio host is now well positioned to enter this fall as the Republican candidate in CD2.
On Twitter, Lewis has echoed some of the same controversial themes he discussed both on his nationally syndicated radio show and in his book, Power Divided is Power Checked: The Argument for States Rights.
Time to ask if 'white lives matter'? Waiting to hear from the vicars of victimhood on what was clearly a horrific hate crime in Roanoke.
— Jason Lewis (@Jason2CD) August 27, 2015
Lewis also frequently conflates weather with climate in an effort to make a case that climate change isn’t real.
We're told climate change is weather extremes–very hot and very cold. Yeah, we used to call that summer & winter. Right now it's winter.
— Jason Lewis (@Jason2CD) January 26, 2014
Digging out of NOV winter blast so imagine my relief that U.S. & China have reached global warming deal. Time to stop these climate deniers.
— Jason Lewis (@Jason2CD) November 12, 2014
But instead of trying to reshape his image now that he’s running for Congress, Lewis has defended his controversial comments. In response to a report highlighting his remarks about “a vast majority of young single women who couldn’t explain to you what GDP means,” Lewis released a statement that said, “Liberal reporters and typical politicians may not like the bluntness of the way I’ve framed some issues in my career as a voice in the conservative movement. As the father of two young daughters, I’m not going to back away from the fight now, especially after two disastrous terms of failed leadership under President Obama.”
In a similar vein, in a February Minneapolis Star Tribune op-ed entitled, “Why I won’t stand for these drive-by allegations,” Lewis wrote, “It’s unfortunate, but one of the things about standing on principle is that the attacks come fast and furious. So it was no surprise when these shopworn Democrat charges surrounding race and gender surfaced. That has long been an article of faith among the left — disagree with us and you must be against civil rights.”
But it wasn’t just Democrats who voiced concern — the Republicans competing against Lewis for the CD2 endorsement also sounded the alarm, as this ad put together by GOP CD2 candidate John Howe highlighting Lewis’ comments about women illustrates:
Nonetheless, after the sixth round of balloting on Saturday, Lewis secured enough support to win the party’s endorsement. Assuming he survives a primary challenge, that sets up general election matchup with Democrat Angie Craig, a former executive at St. Jude Medical.
In a statement released shortly after Lewis’ endorsement became official, Craig indicated that Lewis’ comments will likely be an issue in the general campaign. “I will work tirelessly to show how Jason Lewis’s divisive views and ugly rhetoric are out of touch with my own values and those of our state,” she said.
Minnesota’s 2nd congressional district, which spans south from the eastern part of the Twin Cities metro through a portion of the southeastern part of the state, has been represented by Kline since 2003. While Kline has comfortably won reelection each cycle since then in the right-leaning district, Craig’s unified Democratic support and strong fundraising — she reportedly raised $411,241 during the first quarter of this year, compared to just $113,709 by Lewis — has fueled the notion that CD2 represents a possible Democratic pickup this November.