Ex-radio host Lewis is GOP pick to run for Kline House seat

Published 10:28 am Wednesday, August 10, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Conservative radio host Jason Lewis captured the Republican nomination for a prized U.S. House seat, crystallizing the race for the southeastern Minnesota swing district that both parties feel they can win in November.

Lewis rode his name recognition and party endorsement to advance Tuesday from a four-way field seeking to replace the retiring Republican Rep. John Kline. He’ll face Democratic candidate Angie Craig, a former St. Jude Medical executive who amassed nearly $2 million for her 2nd Congressional District bid while Republicans fought it out among themselves.

“It’s going to be a very tough battle. We’re battle tested,” Lewis said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

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After Kline served seven terms that included a chairmanship, his retirement set off a scramble. Lewis bested not just the three candidates in Tuesday’s primary, but four others who dropped off either after Lewis nabbed the GOP endorsement or early in the race.

“This has been a long grueling race, but a healthy one,” Lewis said after defeating businesswoman Darlene Miller, former state lawmaker John Howe and business consultant Matt Erickson.

A lightning-fast talker whose ability to turn a phrase was honed by two decades on the radio, Lewis wasn’t shy about leveraging the popularity from his radio shows, where he was dubbed “Mr. Right.” But GOP opponents like Miller warned that his career — and some controversial remarks he made on air — would make Lewis a weak opponent against Craig.

National Democrats quickly pounced on Lewis’ nomination, circulating some of those statements Tuesday night, including one in which he called some women “ignorant” for their views on contraceptives.

For his part, Lewis has said he stands by his on-air work but conceded he has “spiced it up too far” at times. That’s how some of his supporters felt at the polls Tuesday.

“I know he can be inflammatory. He’s an entertainer,” said Todd Laubach, who voted at a polling place in Lakeville. “That doesn’t sway me that he can’t be reasonable.”

Though it was one of the few competitive races across the state, turnout was light. At Laubach’s polling place, only 115 people had voted as of 5 p.m. — less than 5 percent of the precinct’s registered voters.