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Democrat Tina Smith defeats Jason Lewis to retain Minnesota US Senate seat

Smith will serve a full term in Al Franken’s old seat after defeating Trump-camp Republican Jason Lewis.

Sen. Tina Smith defeats Republican Jason Lewis in Minnesota.
Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Democratic Sen. Tina Smith defeated Republican challenger Jason Lewis to retain the Minnesota Senate seat she took over from Al Franken following his resignation in early 2018.

Smith led throughout the race, though a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll showed the contest tightening into a dead heat by October 21. Lewis was unable to campaign in the lead-up to Election Day due to an emergency hernia surgery and subsequent hospitalization in late October, but polling aggregations indicated he was facing an uphill battle even before that setback.

Smith, a 62-year-old former Planned Parenthood executive, has worked on a wide range of legislation relating to health care, drug abuse prevention, urban/rural disparities, and veterans issues in the Senate. She has positioned herself as a centrist focused on bread-and-butter issues, staying out of ideological fights like those around Supreme Court expansion.

“I hear from people every day about how exhausted they are by the division and the chaos and the fear, and they’re looking for leadership that is about bringing us together and finding common ground,” Smith told the Associated Press in October. “They appreciate that there are real divisions in our community right now, but they don’t want to see gas thrown on that flame.”

During visits to the state, Trump tried to use Smith’s low profile against her, saying things like “nobody even knows who the hell she is.”

Lewis, a former radio host and one-term Congress member who was defeated by Democratic Rep. Angie Craig in 2018, is perhaps best known for making offensive comments about women on his syndicated radio show. He ran for Senate on a staunchly pro-Trump platform, with Politico describing him last year as Trump’s “mini-me.”

Lewis’s campaign ultimately represented a failed gamble that a Republican could ride the coattails of Trump’s popularity in regions of the state outside the Twin Cities that have been trending red to victory in a statewide election. His defeat continues the Minnesota GOP’s streak of losing every statewide election since then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 2006 reelection victory.