By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The primary for local and statewide races in Minnesota is just nine days away. One of the most widely followed races is the one for U.S. Senate.

Democratic incumbent Sen. Tina Smith is trying to get reelected. On the Republican side, primary voters will choose between John Berman, Cynthia Gail, Bob Carney, James Reibestein and Jason Lewis.

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Lewis is the GOP endorsed candidate.

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The race has been relatively quiet so far  — with neither Smith or Lewis running any major ad buys. It’s also been overshadowed by a series of unprecedented events —  COVID and the death of George Floyd and the ensuing riots have dominated local headlines.

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Republican Jason Lewis has staked out his turf on defending individual freedoms amidst the waves of COVID bans and shutdowns. The latest figures show his fundraising has lagged.

While Sen. Smith has quietly raised $9.6 million, Lewis has raised $2.4 million. As for cash on hand, Smith has $5.8 million, with Lewis just under $1 million.

Lewis has served as a one-term member of Congress before losing to Angie Craig in 2018. He is also a former long time conservative talk show host in the Twin Cities. He was a guest on WCCO Sunday Morning.

“Michael Dukakis was up 17 points in 1988. We have polls showing the race 5 and 3 for the president. I traveled to greater Minnesota for a year now, it is out there, the vote is out there we are going to surprise some people just like the president did in 2016,” Lewis said.

Nationally, key groups that rank Senate races are calling Lewis a long shot to unseat Smith. In the past week, the non-partisan Cook Political Report has moved the Minnesota Senate race from likely Democrat win to solid Democrat.

Esme Murphy