By Esme Murphy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — From presidential candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders, to local politicians, the Minnesota State Fair is the place to make the political scene.

This is where, last week, former Congressman and long time conservative radio talk show Jason Lewis announced his Senate run for Sen. Tina Smith’s seat.

In Sunday’s Talking Points, Esme Murphy looks at the 2020 Minnesota U.S. Senate race.

You could call her the “accidental senator.” Nineteen months ago, Tina Smith was appointed to the Senate by then Gov. Mark Dayton after Sen. Al Franken abruptly resigned.

Despite being lieutenant governor, polls showed she had little name recognition. Ten months after becoming senator, she had to run for election last November. And in a surprisingly easy win, she beat state Sen. Karin Housley by 11 percentage points. Now, she is up for re-election in 2020, and last week at the fair, a well-known name announced he was running against her.

Former Congressman Jason Lewis is a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and has strong name recognition. At his announcement he unveiled one of his strategies — seeking to link Smith to the more progressive Minneapolis Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and the three other progressive freshman congresswomen known as the squad. In fact, Smith’s policies are more moderate than a number of Omar’s. Smith was a guest on WCCO Sunday Morning at the Fair.

“He seems pretty obsessed with the squad, but I will tell you when I go around Minnesota, that is not what people are talking about. They are talking about insulin prices, they are talking about the President’s trade wars and the impact that is having on farm country, they are talking about rising health care costs,” Smith said.

Other Republicans are expected to run to become Smith’s challenger, including Rob Barrett a professor and musician. Because Smith is such a relatively new senator, she is still considered vulnerable. And with Republicans holding onto Senate control by a narrow margin, Minnesota’s 2020 Senate election is certain to attract major national attention and campaign donation.

Esme Murphy

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