Opinion editor’s note: The Star Tribune Editorial Board operates separately from the newsroom, and no news editors or reporters were involved in the endorsement process.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith has been in Washington for just two years, but has managed an impressive number of accomplishments in that time, many of them achieved through bipartisanship.
Members of the minority party often find their efforts to move legislation stymied. Smith has developed a solid track record for working with fellow Democrats but also Republicans, leading to important wins for Minnesota and the country.
On health care, she teamed up with Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota on the Emergency Access to Insulin Act, which came after the death of Minnesotan Alec Smith, a diabetic who self-rationed insulin because of cost. Even though millions of diabetics in this country face the same struggle in the wake of skyrocketing prices the bill stalled in the Senate, but the effort continues.
Smith also worked with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., on a bill to lower the price of insulin overall that passed into law last year. And she teamed up with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on a much-needed expansion of mental health services. It became part of a package that included funding for dealing with opioid addiction and was signed into law.
When Minnesota’s Liberian community was being threatened with the end of an immigration program that had protected them from deportation, Smith joined with others to provide a path to citizenship for Liberians in a bill signed into law last year.
She has pushed for humane, comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes both the value immigrants bring to this country and enhanced border and port security, along with better intelligence and employment verification. It is that kind of nuanced, thoughtful approach that helps build the alliances that result in good lawmaking.
In light of recent reporting disclosures on Justice Department actions to “take away children,” no matter how young, it becomes even more urgent that senators like Smith, working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., push for legislation to bar that from happening.
On criminal justice, Smith told the Editorial Board that “I have said clearly that defunding the police is not the solution,” but added there is real support to fundamentally change policing in a way that would restore needed trust and credibility to police and benefit communities, with national standards on aggressive policing, militarization and a recognition that communities need a broad array of tools to create safety.
Jason Lewis, the Republican challenger, is a one-term House representative who lost his Second District seat in 2018 to Angie Craig. He also is a former radio talk show host with a long combative streak.
In his 2016 House campaign, Lewis stressed his independence. As a House member, he did some good work on juvenile justice issues. Regrettably, he has in this election cycle reverted to his earlier form.
He has painted the election as a choice between “anarchy and American values,” warning that electing his opponent would somehow bring “mob rule” to the suburbs. He has denigrated the wearing of masks, flouted social distancing and now is in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
On immigration Lewis has adopted President Donald Trump’s hard line, saying the U.S. “absolutely” needs a wall with Mexico and that undocumented immigrants should not be counted in the census, despite a clear constitutional requirement to count all residents. Once an ardent free-trader, Lewis says he has undergone a “metamorphosis” and lines up with Trump in rejecting multilateral agreements.
After a close examination of the issues and and in-depth conversations with both Smith and Lewis, the Editorial Board believes Smith best reflects Minnesota’s values.
She is a quietly persistent force who studies the issues, respects the facts and is willing to work with all who seek positive solutions. Smith has earned a full-six year term in the Senate.