Why Jason Lewis’ op-ed went unchallenged

Minnesota GOP U.S. House Rep. Jason Lewis is in a close race with DFLer Angie Craig in next month’s election. So it seems unusual that Lewis, the  2nd District incumbent, got op-ed space in Monday’s Star Tribune — and 6th District Republican House Rep. Tom Emmer got similar space Thursday — to use to campaign against the opposition if they so choose.

Lewis so chose.

“The mainstream Democratic Party of Truman and Kennedy is gone, and Democrats are veering left and hard — opting for self-described socialist candidates who seek to end capitalism, end borders and even end the First Amendment as we know it,” Lewis said in his heated commentary that went unchallenged.

Lewis’ commentary mirrored President Donald Trump’s playbook to delegitimize an opposing party, and runs counter to the sentiment in today’s Star Tribune editorial for more decorum in political discourse.

That sort of commentary typically requires the opposing candidate to get space on the same page to respond.

But Craig got her shot already, according to an explanation by opinion page editor Scott Gillespie, when she wrote about health care a month ago.

A commentary by U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis is the most-read piece on startribune.com/opinion today. Lewis, the Republican incumbent, is being challenged by Democrat Angie Craig in one of the more hotly contested Minnesota congressional races.

Our policy is to give candidates in higher-profile races one commentary opportunity before election day, barring extraordinary circumstances. For example, we’d strongly consider publishing a second piece from a candidate if major news develops in his or her race.

Craig chose to offer us her one post-primary commentary last month, and we published the piece on health care Sept. 10.

It’s important to note that we always give serious consideration to counterpoint commentaries and letters to the editor from candidates who seek but fail to win our Editorial Board endorsement.

Our hope is that hearing directly from candidates in major races is useful to voters as they make their decisions. The more active, strategic candidates see the value, and the pieces from Lewis and Craig are not the last appeals that you’ll read between now and election day.

The Star Tribune apparently received a lot of pushback to the Lewis commentary. The dead trees edition carried a note that Gillespie provided his response online. But the link online only goes to a page to sign up for the Strib’s opinion newsletter. That’s a fail. (h/t to David Brauer for forwarding it).

As for Emmer, he took a different approach for his op-ed. He’s in a safe district.

Politics, like life in general, is all about relationships. That is why, since I was first elected to Congress, I have made it a priority to get to know my colleagues as people — their likes and dislikes, what they want to accomplish and what motivates them. In a time of incredible divisiveness and jumping to conclusions about a person’s character, building relationships with Democrat and Republican members is paramount.

What’s more, those relationships have generated some incredible (and often, nonpartisan) legislation that all Americans can support: the Abby Honold Act, the Stemming the Tide of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide (STRESS) Act, the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act and the Keeping Capital Local for Underserved Communities Act.