Former radio talk show host Jason Lewis isn’t following the traditional campaign playbook as he runs for Congress in Minnesota’s 2nd District.
In an interview, Lewis said he’s willing to raise the retirement age for Social Security, cut defense spending and overhaul the tax code.
Lewis also criticized Republican leadership in Washington for failing to cut spending.
“I’m running as a Republican. I’ve been a lifelong Republican,” Lewis said. “But part of the problem for the GOP has been a credibility problem.”
Lewis, who ran unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in Colorado in 1990, is campaigning as a political outsider. He said wants to head to Congress to get something done.
“I don’t need my 15 minutes of fame. I already had it. I’m a happy camper,” he said. “I want to change the country. I want to do something. I want to make this count.”
A lot of those changes involve deep budget cuts and changes to the tax code. Lewis said he’s in favor of across the board spending cuts that include Medicare, Medicaid and defense spending. And even though many Republicans, including John Kline (whom Lewis is hoping to replace), don’t support continued cuts in military spending, Lewis does.
“I had two brothers in Vietnam and when I ask them, do you think there’s any waste in the pentagon? When they’re done laughing hysterically, the answer is yes,” Lewis said.
Lewis also said he’s willing to make changes to Social Security to ensure it remains viable.
“I think we ought to raise the retirement age in Social Security and tie COLA increases to a different index that is more reflective to actual inflation,” he said.
Lewis said he wants a fairer tax system which includes the elimination of nearly all deductions and a lower income tax rate. He said that would include eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit for low income people and possible elimination of the home mortgage deduction if he could lower the individual income tax rate to 10 percent.
“If I can get a flat rate to 10 percent, and you’d have to crunch the numbers, I don’t think I would spare any deduction. But you’d have to go to people who lost a deduction and say, yeah you’re losing the deduction but the income tax rate is 10 percent, you’re gaining there. But if you can’t get the rate down that low, you’re not going to be able to do that.”
Lewis said he isn’t sure whether he’ll drop out of the race if Republican delegates endorse another candidate. He said he’ll make a decision “in a few weeks.”
Lewis is also defending himself against critics who say he lives outside the 2nd District. He said his Woodbury home was in the district until the new political boundaries were drawn in 2011. He said he lives a “tee shot” from the 2nd.
“I’m on the border,” Lewis said. “The federal issues don’t change whether you live in Cottage Grove, Goodhue County, Lakeville or Woodbury.”
Three other Republicans seeking the nomination in the 2nd District are David Gerson, former state Rep. Pam Myrha and former state Sen. John Howe. Two Democrats, Mary Lawrence and Angie Craig, are also running.
Kline announced in September that he would not run for a another term in the south suburban district.