Election 2020 preview: Minnesota's Senate race

Incumbent Tina Smith will take on former Congressman Jason Lewis.
Publish date:
Jason Lewis and Tina Smith

Who’s running?

  • Sen. Tina Smith (D-inc)
  • Jason Lewis (R)
  • Oliver Steinberg (Grassroots - Legalize Cannabis)
  • Kevin O’Connor (Legal Marijuana Now) 

What happened last time?

After being appointed to fill the seat after the resignation of Al Franken, Sen. Tina Smith won a special election in 2018, beating Republican challenger and state Sen. Karin Housley with around 53% of the vote.

Smith previously served as the state’s lieutenant governor under Mark Dayton.

Jason Lewis formerly held the state's 2nd Congressional District seat in Congress. He was beat out by Democratic challenger Angie Craig in 2018, who won with more than 52% of the vote. 

The race so far:

Both Smith and Lewis won their August primaries by a comfortable margin. 

Lewis and Smith have both touted their previous records in Congress on the campaign trail. Smith has emphasized her work on healthcare issues, including lowering the price of prescription drugs and fighting the opioid epidemic. Smith has repeatedly pushed bipartisan work, pointing to legislation that has gained support from both sides of the aisle.

Lewis has pointed to his record on tax and spending cuts and infrastructure in the House of Representatives. He is also a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump. Lewis faced a health scare earlier this week when he was rushed into emergency surgery for a "life-threatening hernia." He has also recently had to quarantine twice due to COVID-19 exposures, and continues to attract national headlines for controversial comments he has made on women, race, and other issues during his former career as a radio host.

Where the candidates stand:

Smith has worked on a number of bills in the Senate related to healthcare costs in her first term in the Senate. The Stop Price Gouging Act, coauthored by Smith, would require drug companies to justify price increases on prescription drugs or face  financial penalties.

Smith also introduced legislation to prevent drug companies from monopolizing or obtaining exclusive licensing for a future COVID-19 vaccine.

Serving on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Smith also worked on provisions in the Farm Bill, including one that expands rural broadband.

Smith also voiced opposition of the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, citing concerns about the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights.

Jason Lewis was an author of the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 while serving in Congress. The bill prohibits youth incarceration for offenses like breaking curfew or skipping school. It also requires separation of youth from adult inmates.

Serving on the House Budget Committee, Lewis favored resolutions that included tax cuts and spending reductions.

Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll spoke in support of Lewis at an August “Back the Blue” event. Lewis is also endorsed by President Trump, of whom he is a vociferous supporter.

Smith and Lewis reportedly clashed at a virtual MPR event earlier this month, with Lewis criticizing Smith and her Senate colleagues for rejecting Republican COVID-19 assistance proposals. Smith called the plans inadequate and called for bipartisan work to strengthen the aid proposals.

Lewis has faced criticism during the campaign for his comments on COVID-19 mitigation measures at a time when cases have been surging across the nation, sparking an angry reaction from current Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan when he went on a radio show and described face masks as "muzzles" designed to enforce "total, absolute conformity."

Oliver Steinberg is a member of the Grassroots - Legalize Cannabis party, which achieved major party status in Minnesota in 2018.

Steinberg told WCCO he supports not only legalizing recreational marijuana, but erasing all past convictions related to the drug, with the exception of furnishing it to minors. Steinberg is also in favor of further taxes on oil companies and the country’s top income earners to transition the country to a renewable energy system.

Kevin O’Connor of the Legal Marijuana Now party, also now a major party, also supports the legalization of marijuana, along with any other drug that can benefit the health of individuals, according to the party’s website

You can find the candidate's issues pages here: 

– Sen. Tina Smith

– Jason Lewis (His site doesn't have an issues page, but here is his "About" section)

– Oliver Steinberg

– Kevin O'Connor (doesn't have his own site, so here's the Legal Marijuana Now site)

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