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Former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis says he'll challenge Tina Smith in Minnesota

Former Republican Rep. Jason Lewis (Minn.) announced Thursday he will challenge Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) in the Gopher State's Senate race next year. 

Lewis, who was elected to the House in 2016 and served a single term before losing reelection, cast his campaign as a crusade for a list of conservative cultural touchpoints against a "radical political movement" he says is gaining prominence in Washington.

"Today we are at a crossroads in Minnesota and across this country not seen since the chaos and turmoil of the 1960s," Lewis said in his campaign launch video. "Private property, religious liberty, due process, the pride of citizenship, the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, even Betsy Ross's flag, are now seen as dispensable relics to a radical political movement that appears to be gaining steam in the corridors of power."

Lewis went on to accuse liberals of "declaring border walls immoral, but not infanticide" and wanting to "abolish [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE, private health insurance, welfare work requirements, air travel, fossil fuels, the internal combustion engine, why, capitalism itself."

"Well, I'm not going to sit on the sidelines. I'm going to fight back," he said. 

Lewis focused on tying Smith to the so-called "squad," a group of four progressive, freshman congresswomen of color made up of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who have sparked widespread conservative ire over their advocacy for a slate of social justice issues.

His announcement comes as the GOP is gearing up for war in Minnesota, a state where Republicans are keen on gaining ground after President Trump narrowly lost there by roughly 1.5 points in 2016.

Lewis won a suburban seat in 2016 but was ousted by about 6 points in 2018 amid a nationwide Democratic surge in similar districts that was viewed as a rebuke of the White House.

On his campaign website, Lewis touted his votes for the GOP's tax cut plan and efforts to slash regulations while in the House.

He will have an uphill battle in his effort to unseat Smith, who was appointed to her role in January 2018 to fill the seat vacated after Sen. Al Franken (D) resigned. She handily won the 2018 special election in November by 11 points. 

Ken Martin, chair of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, panned Lewis as Trump's "hand-picked" candidate in a statement and expressed confidence that "Minnesota voters will reject this failed attempt at a second act." 

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as "Likely Democratic."

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