Lewis brings Senate campaign to Greater MN

MARSHALL — Former U.S. Representative Jason Lewis has been back on the campaign trail since August, in a bid to unseat Sen. Tina Smith. And this month, the emphasis has been on Greater Minnesota.

“We think Greater Minnesota has sort of been the forgotten man and woman in politics in Minnesota, that no one has represented them. Whether it’s rural health care, but also energy, logging and mining,” Lewis said Wednesday, during a stop in Marshall. “For those people that think the only things that matter in statewide elections are Hennepin and Ramsey County, there’s 85 other counties that matter just as much to me. And we’re going to make certain they have a voice. And quite frankly, the numbers are such that, if you win that, you win the race.”

Lewis, a former radio talk show host and congressman representing Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, is running for U.S. Senate as a Republican candidate against Smith.

“I wanted to go where I could have the most impact in the quickest amount of time. We have a golden opportunity here — the best opportunity we’ve had in decades — to get a little balance back into the Senate, and Minnesota traditionally has had balance,” Lewis said. Now, Minnesota has two Democratic senators. “I think there’s a need there, but there’s also an opportunity to really move the needle towards, in my view, more freedom and more prosperity, more constitutional jurisprudence,” he said.

Last week, Lewis kicked off a campaign tour that has taken him through several northern and southern Minnesota cities so far. On Wednesday, he met with the Independent in Marshall, after a tour stop in Luverne, where he met with local health care providers. Lewis said the discussion in Luverne talked about both developments in rural health care, like telemedicine, and the need to keep rural health care services viable.

“Basically it’s reimbursement for the providers and clinics and doctors and nurses, to make it viable for them to keep their facilities in rural Minnesota. That’s going to be a key challenge going forward, to make certain we’ve got facilities that will meet the needs of rural Minnesotans. It’s very key that we not try to be penny wise and pound foolish, like ‘Medicare for all’ schemes that would drastically slash the viability of rural medicine and rural medical care,” Lewis said.

“The bottom line is, you’ve got to make certain people can buy the plan they want, and get the medicine they want, with the doctor and provider they want. So that means cleaning up the system a little bit,” he said.

Lewis said he also supported industry and international trade — two subjects crucial to the survival of Greater Minnesota communities. In the northern part of the state, that meant supporting mining and logging, and the Enbridge oil pipeline replacement project.

“If you take a look at copper-nickel (mining), Twin Metals and PolyMet on the (Iron) Range, you take a look at Enbridge Line 3, and fixing some things with regard to logging, especially renewable fuel for forest biomass, you’re looking at 10,000-15,000 jobs on the Range. That is a huge economic impact, $5.9 billion in total,” Lewis said. However, he said those projects weren’t getting support from Democrats like Smith and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Lewis said trade deals like the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, and agreements with China and Japan, were all “absolutely vital” to agriculture in Minnesota.

“Getting USMCA done, which we almost had done in my last year in Congress, but has been sitting on the sideline for a year now because Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t get it out — that was a big victory. Trade with Mexico and Canada, and especially opening up those dairy markets in Canada,” he said.

Lewis made some headlines during a campaign stop in Bemidji last week when he spoke out in support of Beltrami County’s decision not to accept refugees. On Wednesday, he said he stood by his remarks. He said there are costs that go with refugee resettlement, whether direct costs like SNAP benefits or public housing, or indirect costs to the education and corrections systems, that local governments should have a voice in.

“Minnesota has 2% of the (U.S.) population, and we have 13% of the nation’s refugees. There does become a critical mass in this, that sometimes communities can’t handle it. Refugees are not like illegal immigrants. They’re vetted. They’re legal. They aren’t even like people seeking asylum. They’ve already been approved by the State Department. But the problem is there’s a moral hazard writ large in this when you pay the refugee resettlement organizations,” Lewis said. “When you pay them a stipend to resettle, and the sooner they can get those folks on public assistance the less it costs them, you have induced an incentive that doesn’t always work for the benefit of the community.”

Beyond that, Lewis said, he believed in local control.

“You have the very same people who think local municipalities ought to control the sanctuary city movement, but don’t want local control over whether people ought to accept refugees? I can’t have one without the other,” he said. “I absolutely reserve the right for local government to engage in self-government, so people can live under the laws they choose.”


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