U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis highlighted his support for Republican-passed tax cuts while his Democratic challenger Angie Craig warned that Republicans like Lewis would cut entitlements, such as Medicare and Social Security, if they continue to hold power in Congress, as the two met for the final debate of their hard-fought election rematch.
Lewis, running for a second term in the Second Congressional District after narrowly beating Craig in 2016, touted the tax bill — passed by Republican congressional majorities and signed by President Donald Trump at the end of 2017 — as a huge shot in the arm for American taxpayers, business owners and the job market.
“This has been a great success story,” Lewis said at the forum at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, adding that it’s spurred economic growth and job openings. “We’ve got the greatest economy since 1969.”
Craig disputed the benefit of the tax cuts, saying “trickle-down economics” has never worked and didn’t help her family when she grew up living in a mobile home. She called for more tax cuts for middle-class families and small businesses and said the tax cuts Lewis supported just added to the federal deficit.
“They’re coming after your Medicare and Social Security and they are going to cut it or raise the retirement age in order to pay for their tax cut for very large companies,” Craig said.
With under two weeks to Election Day, Craig and Lewis have been locked in an intense contest in this district, which includes southeastern Twin Cities suburbs, and more rural areas to the south. As one of a handful of swing seats targeted by both national political parties, the race has seen major infusions of outside spending, and is likely to be a test of Republican staying power in suburban districts where Democrats are trying to capitalize on Trump’s slumping support among women and college-educated voters.
In recent weeks, Lewis has tried to emphasize support from women. On Monday, he held a 25-minute discussion with a group of 10 preselected female constituents that was billed as centering on women’s issues, with the economy and health care dominating the discussion.
At one point, Lewis asked how many women supported “Medicare for All” and the group groaned.
“That would be a disaster for everybody,” Lewis said.
Sixty percent of likely women voters plan to vote for Democrats, according to a CNN poll this month. A CBS News poll found 47 percent of college-educated women in key House districts plan to vote in opposition to President Donald Trump in the midterm elections.
Earlier this month, Lewis was the only Republican candidate in Minnesota to release a statement publicly siding with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh the day after Christine Blasey Ford testified that the judge assaulted her when they were teenagers. He also attacked Democrats for politicizing the confirmation.
He’s also faced national headlines over controversial remarks about women from his days as a conservative talk radio host. On Friday, CNN’s KFile released audio from 2012 in which Lewis questioned why a woman would be traumatized by a man inappropriately touching her thigh or kissing her.
But this fall, Lewis has argued that female voters should be celebrated for having viewpoints as diverse as men. The day of Blasey Ford’s testimony, he launched a video series called “Independent Women for an Independent Voice” featuring women who support his campaign.
Asked this week if controversial remarks about women on the radio could affect winning women’s votes, Lewis said he wasn’t worried.
“We look at them as voters and constituents,” Lewis said. “They want an environment where their business can prosper. That’s what we provided.”
Craig has criticized Lewis’ position on Kavanaugh and remarks on women. But those issues have taken a back seat to her main lines of attack: his votes to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and approve a tax code overhaul that she describes as a corporate giveaway and his campaign contributions from political action committees.
“We continue to be more offended by his votes against Minnesota families,” Craig said in a statement.
At the debate on Thursday, Craig vowed to hold public forums if elected and repeated her frequent vow to reform campaign finance, saying “dark, anonymous money” needs to get out of campaigns from all sides.
“I’ll never forget, as a member of Congress, who sent me there and who I work for,” Craig said. “I will never forget where I came from.”
Lewis called for greater political civility in the wake of bomb threats against prominent Democrats and media organizations over the last two days. He also warned that if Craig is elected it will mean the start of “Democratic socialism.”
“You will have a constitutional crisis and you will have chaos if the Democrats take the House,” Lewis said.