As primaries approach, controversies dominate Minnesota politics

Both Jason Lewis and Rick Nolan have been in the firing line this week.
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We're just weeks away from Minnesota's election primaries, but most of the headlines this past week concerning November's crucial elections have focused on scandal, not policy.

Pressure is being applied on both sides of the aisle, with 2nd District Rep. Jason Lewis bearing the brunt for the GOP and the Lori Swanson/Rick Nolan gubernatorial campaign in the firing line for the DFL.

Nolan has faced called to resign as Swanson's running mate for governor, after a MinnPost piece released last week revealed Nolan's former legislative director had been accused of sexual harassment by several staffers, yet had later been re-hired by Nolan's campaign.

Nolan has been defended by Swanson, who told KARE 11 she believes he handled it the best way he could once he became aware of it, while Nolan re-iterated that “there is absolutely no room in any office for sexual harassment."

As is always the risk during fiercely competitive primaries, the Nolan story is leading to fighting among Democratic candidates.

The Swanson-Nolan campaign on Friday suggested one of the women accusing Nolan's former aide of being motivated by politics, noting that she currently works for the rival Tim Walz-Peggy Flanagan campaign.

This provoked an outraged reaction from Walz on Sunday, who rejected the notion he's taking advantage of the #MeToo movement, saying he'd told his staffer that he would support whatever decision she made regarding her accusations.

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He accused Swanson-Nolan of "victim blaming," saying: "This is what silences women from being able to tell their stories."

Similar criticism of Nolan has come from the DFL endorsed candidates Erin Murphy and Erin Maye Quade, with Murphy accusing him of "enabling and protecting a predator."

"Engaging in sexual harassment or sexual assault – or sweeping it under the rug – is unacceptable," she added.

Lewis under fire for radio show comments

On the Republican side, 2nd District Rep. Jason Lewis – who is in a toss-up race to retain his seat against DFLer Angie Craig, has been challenged on his past this week.

His criticism isn't coming from his own party, but rather from articles by CNN's investigative KFile unit, which reviewed months worth of audio from Lewis' time on KSTP radio between 2009 and 2014.

The first article went live earlier this week, focusing on unsavory comments Lewis made on his show relating to women and in particular women voters.

These comments included lamentations he could no longer refer to women as "sluts," as well as suggestions that women who vote on the basis of free birth control don't have any brains.

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This was followed up by another piece on Friday that concerned his comments regarding black people, which included excerpts in which he stated they had an "entitlement mentality" and blamed welfare programs for the disintegration of black communities.

Lewis has come out swinging, accusing CNN and his opponents of re-litigating comments that had already been the focus of previous scrutiny, although many of KFile's investigation features comments that had surfaced for the first time since Lewis made them.

He also rejects notions of racism, saying his comments have been taken out of context and pointing out that he has been working on bipartisan legislation on criminal justice reforms, as well as consistently questioning the efficacy of the drug war while citing it's disproportionate impact minority communities.

Lewis in a video he posted on Friday suggested he's the victim of smears.

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