A homophobic and misogynistic former radio shock jock who lost his reelection bid for the U.S. House to a lesbian candidate now wants to be a senator.
Jason Lewis, who once likened laws against same-sex marriage to laws against rape, wants to be Minnesota’s Republican nominee for U.S. Senate to challenge Tina Smith, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Smith, a Democrat, was appointed in January 2018 to fill Al Franken’s position after he resigned due to accusations of sexual misconduct. She won a special election in November but must run again in 2020.
Lewis served one term in the House from Minnesota’s Second Congressional District, which includes parts of St. Paul and its suburbs. He lost last year to Democrat Angie Craig, an out lesbian.
Before running for office, Lewis had a nationally syndicated radio show and was often a guest host on Rush Limbaugh’s program. On a show in 2013, Lewis made the following argument against marriage equality: “When we pass a law against rape, you’re not treating a rapist equal. The law, the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, simply means this: that people who find themselves in similar circumstances must be treated in a similar way. … You must discriminate against all smokers, you must discriminate against all rapists.”
Should the Equal Protection Clause be found to protect the rights of same-sex couples — which it was in 2015, by the U.S. Supreme Court — it “would undo the entire state criminal code because we’re all treated unequally,” he said. He also called LGBTQ activists “underhanded,” said they were “shredding the Constitution,” and asserted that same-sex couples seeking marriage rights were insecure in their relationships.
Discussing women, he once said, “Can we call anybody a slut?” He insulted African-Americans as well, saying they have an “entitlement mentality.”
An aide to Lewis dismissed the offensive comments, saying, “It was his job to be provocative” on the radio, the Star Tribune reports.
In launching his Senate campaign, Lewis derided Smith as too liberal and also denounced “the squad,” a group of four first-term Democratic House members that includes Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar. The four, all women of color, are a frequent target of Donald Trump. “The state of Minnesota is not interested in following the squad off the rails,” he said Thursday at the Minnesota State Fair, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. He called the Senate “the last firewall of freedom” against “the squad” and other progressives.
Lewis expressed strong support for Trump and his positions on immigration, the economy, and other issues. “I have a hard time disagreeing with much of it,” he said.
Minnesota Democrats warned that standing with Trump would be unpopular in the state, which went for Hillary Clinton over Trump by a small margin in the 2016 presidential election and which hasn’t been carried by a Republican presidential nominee since 1972. Ken Martin, chairman of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as Minnesota’s Democratic Party is known, said Lewis is Trump’s “hand-picked” candidate.
Ryan Furlong, Smith’s campaign manager, said the senator’s record will resonate with voters. “Senator Smith has a record of working hard for the people of Minnesota, taking on powerful special interests and working across the aisle to get things done, whether it’s fighting to protect health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, standing up to the big drug companies to lower prescription drug prices or making sure young people have the skills they need to fill high-demand jobs,” Furlong told the Pioneer Press.
One other Democrat, Steve Carlson, who was a write-in candidate for Senate in 2018, is expected to challenge Smith for the party’s nomination, according to Ballotpedia. Besides Lewis, one other Republican, former state legislator Bob Barrett, is likely to run in the primary, which is in August 2020.
The Human Rights Campaign released a statement about Lewis, who had a zero score on the group’s Congressional Scorecard while in the House. “Jason Lewis is a dangerously out-of-touch extremist who compared LGBTQ people to rapists and criminals and complained that he could no longer call women ‘sluts,’” said Lindsey Clark, HRC regional campaign director for Minnesota. “The fact that he wants to make a reappearance from obscurity is his decision, but we’re confident Minnesotans will send him there again. Lewis’s views are out of step with Minnesota and he has no business pursuing higher office.”