(The Center Square) – Incumbent Democrat Tina Smith will battle Republican Jason Lewis for a U.S. Senate seat in November.
Neither candidate answered The Center Square’s questionnaire, so it’s unclear where they stand on some taxpayer issues, but here’s where they seem to stand according to public records and past interviews.
Smith has advocated for deep police reform but has stopped short of advocating for their abolition.
Healthcare and national responses to COVID-19
Smith wants to expand Medicaid and Medicare.
Smith’s Free COVID-19 Treatment Act aims to give “free” COVID-19 treatment and vaccines, with a $100 million cost funded by the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Supplementary Trust Fund – mainly funded through payroll taxes, Social Security benefits taxes, general tax revenue, and the premiums.
Lewis has advocated for lifting COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and has advocated for cutting spending.
Via Minnesota Public Radio, Lewis supports budget cuts, including reductions in Medicare, Medicaid, and to defense spending.
Spending, tax policy, and national debt
It appears Lewis is mostly against raising taxes and prefers instead to cut spending and reform the tax code.
Lewis voted for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and has advocated for reforming and simplifying the tax code.
“But the fact is you can't tax, spend or borrow your way to prosperity. It's time to get our economy working for all Americans who want good-paying jobs – and that means making work pay again by cutting taxes and regulations,” his 2016 House campaign website stated.
He voted against the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 that increased spending by billions.
Post-vote, he said, "I ran for Congress to get the economy going again by reducing taxes, regulations, deficits and debt. A $300 billion increase in discretionary spending along with hiking the debt ceiling fails on all accounts."
Lewis has advocated for “across-the-board budget reductions because no matter how you finance big government spending – whether taxes, borrowing, or printing money – it all comes out of your pocket,” Lewis said on his 2016 Minnesota House campaign website, via ontheissues.org.
Lewis has called the growing federal budget “the single biggest drag on economic growth and job creation, because wasteful government spending crowds out productive private investment.”
Smith has criticized how tax cuts increased the national debt, saying, “We’re borrowing that money from the children in the audience — no offense to the adults in the room,” via the Star Tribune.
Lewis advocates for school choice.
Then-Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who was Smith’s boss, in 2017 vetoed a bill aiming to create a school voucher program to encourage school choice.
Criminal Justice Reform
Lewis supported The Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective Justice Act, which seeks to streamline the federal justice system to focus on high-risk offenders, slash federal overcriminalization, and the costs associated with the high number of people in prison for nonviolent crimes.
“The bottom line is the budget is getting out of control and the number of people being incarcerated is getting out of control,” Lewis said, via the Star Tribune.
His Juvenile Justice Reform Act was signed into law in 2018, and gives a second chance to at-risk youth who enter the juvenile justice system through other programs.
“Real compassion is moving people from dependence to independence,” Lewis said in a statement.
Lewis co-sponsored, unsuccessfully, the Compassionate Access Act, which directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reschedule marijuana from Schedule 1, alongside heroin, to allow additional medical research.
Smith has advocated for ending no-knock warrants; ending police chokeholds; ending qualified immunity for police officers; and ending the 1033 program that allows local police to receive military weapons at no additional cost.
In July 2020, Smith introduced the Substance Regulation and Safety Act to legalize cannabis and regulate cannabis federally.
Smith also supported the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act to end the "failed policy" of cannabis prohibition that "contributes to mass incarceration and over-policing of communities of color."
Real Clear Politics polling places Smith in front of Jason Lewis 48-39.9, an 8.7% spread.
Republicans haven’t won a Minnesota U.S. Senate seat since Richard Nixon won the 1972 presidential race against Sen. George McGovern by a landslide.