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*KAXE/KBXE News and Public Affairs Director Heidi Holtan recently spoke with Alan Roy. The following transcript has been edited for clarity. The audio of this interview is available at the top of this page.
(Heidi Holtan) Q: Jason Lewis is the Republican candidate for US Senate against Senator Tina Smith, the Democrat. He served as Minnesota Congressperson for District 2. Jason Lewis, thanks for being with us on KAXE/KBXE.
(Jason Lewis) A: Heidi, always a pleasure. Thank you.
Q: So, tell us why you're running for US Senate.
A: The reason I am running is to make certain every Minnesotan gets representation. We have spent literally days and days and tens of thousands of miles traveled in greater Minnesota. So the forgotten man and woman on the Range, in the Red River Valley, in the lakes area, in Brainerd, where I am now, gets representation. And too often, the Metro area seems to control too many things. They deserve representation too, but so do the folks out here. And that's why I'm running: to make sure we get the Range back up and running, get those Twin Ports in Duluth, shipping iron ore and precious metals. Making certain our sugar beet farmers can have a market for their product and hog farmers. And of course, making certain the resorts here in the beautiful Brainerd lakes area have a market as well. And you don't get that with eternal lockdown. You don't get that with an overreach on where people can assemble, and you certainly don't get it with $4 trillion in new taxes, or a lack of public safety, which seems to be spreading, which is very, very dangerous.
Q: So is that what you mean by forgotten? Meaning the focus on urban areas, not rural areas?
A: Yeah. I think that's happening nationwide, and I think Minnesota is the microcosm of that. That'd be urban areas in the country, all over the country, whether it's Portland or Seattle or Dallas or Minneapolis-Saint Paul become more radicalized, become more pronounced in their chaos and talking about democratic socialism, and refusing to make certain that we restore public order. If that happens, it's pushing the rest of the state and the rest of the country into a different camp. And that happens to be the president's camp, that happens to be Jason Lewis's camp. And we're glad to have those folks because those are the things that make our state great and make America great...civility, public order, a growing economy, and the ability to engage in commerce, go to church... assemble, all the things that have been threatened in the last few months.
Q: You said overreach. I wonder if you would talk about that. As we talk here, we are still in the midst of a pandemic with 49 governors around the country still having executive powers, President, Trump having executive powers. I wonder if you could talk more about that as rural areas are starting to see more community spread. Numbers may not seem huge, but you know, when you take the percentages and everything, it's starting to creep in a little bit more.
A: The good news, Heidi, is as you get these minor spikes, nothing near back February and March, but as you get these minor spikes, the mortality rates are dropping precipitously, and that's good news. We were all for flattening the curve, which meant making certain we didn't run out of hospital capacity, ventilator shortages, which thankfully we haven't had. So now we've got a public health challenge to manage, especially for the elderly and the infirm, that's where the virus is really threatening. In fact, the young kids in school have a five times greater likelihood of getting sick and tragically dying from the flu than they do COVID. And yet, we're keeping kids out of school. We're hurting them mentally, emotionally, and academically. We're telling COVID positive patients out of hospitals to go back into nursing homes, and Minnesota actually did that. I don't think this was a public policy mistake or blunder. I think it's close to a scandal. So we were locking down northern Minnesota, while at the same time taking these COVID positive patients and putting them in nursing homes. That is entirely backwards, and it was mismanaged. And it was mismanaged from the get-go. You recall that it was Nancy Pelosi [who said], "Come on to Chinatown." It was the WHO and the CDC saying, "Don't wear a mask." All of these models that said 22,000-36,000 Minnesotans would be dead by now. We're off by orders of magnitude. And yet we locked down an entire country over that? We'd never done that before, after the H1N1, not for Hong Kong flu, not for the Spanish flu in 1918. So I do think it was an overreaction, and I think it was hijacked, quite frankly, for partisan political purposes. And look at what we've done to the economy in the process. Look what we've done to the resorts here in lake country. Look what we've done to businesses, just trying to get back up and running. Their families and kids that have missed their only graduation. I don't think that's good policy. And frankly, that's why I sued the governor. And that case will be heard this week.
Q: We're talking to Jason Lewis. He's the Republican candidate for the US Senate seat that is currently held by Tina Smith. Right now, the state of Minnesota is reporting that the largest number of COVID cases is 20 to 29 year olds, not in nursing home settings. And that's part of what they are concerned about, when it comes to schools. Not so much the kids, but who they pass it to...the lunch ladies, and the bus drivers, and things like that. I wonder if you can talk about how you would approach community spread when it comes to twenty-somethings, since we really don't know the effects of this virus, longterm, right now.
A: Let me just be clear about this, Heidi. It is not in the American nature to hunker down, to cower in place. We're not a country that operates on fear. We handle our public health challenges, and traditionally the public health authorities made recommendations. So if you've got an underlying condition, and by the way, let me be clear about this: According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 98% of mortalities were people with underlying conditions, not healthy twenty-somethings, or not healthy kids, or even healthy adults. You make public recommendations that says basically, if you are at risk, wear a mask, socially distance, and if you're really concerned, stay at home. But you don't lock down a country. You don't tell young kids who are 14 to socially isolate. You don't tell people in nursing homes, on their last days on this earth, they can't hug a loved one. What kind of a country, or what kind of people do that? I certainly wouldn't. And I think we have made a huge mistake there. We can handle a public health challenge, like we handle H1N1, and all the rest by being prudent, by making certain we flatten the curve, which we have done ,and going on about our business. That's the American way.
Q: Well, let's talk more about business. You mentioned the Range. What kind of priorities would you have, as the US Senator, for the Range and for the economics of the future?
A: The Range is crucial. It's crucial in this election, but more importantly, it's crucial for Minnesota and the country. Polymet, the mine now going into copper nickel, precious metals, cobalt, titanium. We may have one of the largest reserves in the world sitting underneath the range. They've gone through $200 million of environmental vetting, and they're still not up and running. Twin Metals, which is outside the Boundary Waters, there's a real misnomer about where Twin Metals sits…outside the Boundary Waters, is trying to make certain they put miners back to work, and preserve their way of life. I am unapologetic in my support for those mining projects and mining precious metals, the way I was unapologetic for supporting mining and iron ore. This is a real opportunity for a Range Renaissance. Fifteen-thousand jobs, direct and indirect, literally 5.9 billion in economic impact. This could be huge for the Range. And by that, of course, the whole area. So we got to get those mines up and running. My opponent refuses to block Betty McCollum's bill that would effectively ban mining, not just the Twin Metals, but across the range. I will block it, if I get to the Senate.
Q: Let's talk about tribal nations. As a Senator, you would represent many tribal nations of Minnesota. How will you foster those relationships? What do you think the priorities are there?
A: Yeah, that's a great question. I had two tribes, two groups that I represented in the second district, the Ojibwa Mdewakantan tribe, and I was proud to do so. The fact is that I also co-sponsored the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. I was a friend to Native Americans in the House, and I'll continue with that in the Senate and make certain that they have the opportunities, and that the law is enforced the way it's written, so that they have those opportunities. We've got to have a rising tide of economic growth and prosperity that lifts all boats. And I intend to do that in the United States Senate.
Q: In these election interviews I've been doing, childcare almost always comes to the forefront, in rural areas, but throughout the entire state. What are your thoughts when it comes to finding childcare so that businesses can grow?
A: Well, first thing we do, is get the kids back to school. I visited with a school district yesterday, that thankfully was open. They took the governor's recommendations, but then they made their decision, and they're getting their kids back to the learning process. And that does free up mom and dad to go to work. It's a real problem when these parents have to stay home, because they can't get childcare because of the lockdown in the school. So that's issue number one. Issue number two... In the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, which I voted for, debated on the floor in general debate, and then help get it passed, we doubled the childcare credit. My opponent wants to repeal that. We have a family medical leave credit that was put in place for small businesses in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. But the single best thing you can do is economic growth. When we were growing at 4 or 5% GDP, when we had record low unemployment, the lowest since 1969, and by the way, a record low for African Americans, Hispanics women. Before the lockdown, people could afford childcare. And that's what we have to get back.
Q: You can find lots more information on Jason Lewis at his website. It's lewisformn.com. I appreciate your time today. Thanks.
A: Heidi, thanks so much, enjoyed it.