Dakota County among counties stalling congressional results

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The results of Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District hang on Dakota County.

Not a single precinct had reported to the Secretary of State’s Office as of 2 a.m. Wednesday. By 3:15 a.m., 40 precincts or 14 percent had yet to report.

As of press time, Republican candidate Jason Lewis led with 48 percent of the vote while Democrat Angie Craig received 43 percent. She had gained 4 percent when the first Dakota County results were filed.

Independent candidate Paula Overby trailed her two opponents and had 8 percent.

"We have not yet seen nearly enough results to assess with any confidence the state of the race in the Second District,” a spokesperson with Angie Craig’s campaign said in an email. “Many of the outstanding results come from areas that form the backbone of our support. We are confident that when all of the results are reported, Angie Craig will be the next member of Congress from Minnesota's Second District."

Craig graduated from the University of Memphis and worked as a journalist before entering the business world. She worked for Fortune 500 health care company, St. Jude’s Medical and most recently has led the company’s Global Human Resources group since 2011.

Lewis gained visibility through his career in radio, during which he served as a guest host to Rush Limbaugh and later hosted his own show.

Lewis has been an outspoken critic of the Affordable Care Act in both his radio career and during the political campaign.

Groups including the League of Conservation Voters and the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor State Committee, both of which endorsed Craig, have criticized Lewis for on-air comments he made about women and climate change.

“I have lots of great Republican friends, but Jason has spent his entire career on right wing radio promoting partisan politics,” she said. “That has led to the rise of the Tea Party and the extreme group of people who would shut down the government in 2013 — the same group that he wants to be part of as a member of Congress.”

Lewis said ads funded by Craig supporters deliberately took his comments out of context.

“My job was to be provocative and I was provocative,” Lewis said of his radio career. “Those that have listened to my program over the years know that I’ve had as many Republicans mad at me at times as Democrats. We have had this sort of red-vs-blue tribalism where party is ahead of principle.”

Priorities

Health care catapulted to the top of both state and federal candidates’ platforms following state Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman’s announcement that rates for individual health insurance policies would rise by 50 to 67 percent.

Both candidates named health care as among their top priorities.

From a federal level, Craig hopes to tackle health care woes by adjusting the Affordable Care Act rather than repealing it as Republicans have called for.

“I don't want to lose what good aspects came out, like being able to keep our kids on our plan until age 26 or solving the problem of pre-existing conditions and going back to a time where women paid more than men for health care,” she said.

The solution, she said, starts with addressing health care cost-drivers like expensive prescription drugs.

“Democrats have acknowledged the problem with the individual marketplace, but I think we all have to acknowledge the high cost of prescription drugs is driving up health care costs across the board,” she said. “Specifically I think Medicare, the largest provider of health insurance, needs to be able to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.”

Options Craig favors to lower pharmaceutical costs include allowing the sanctioned import of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and prioritizing “efficiency and high-value care over volume” in the U.S.

As a member of Congress, Lewis said he would challenge ACA mandates he says require the most expensive plans and drive young people and independent insurers out of the market.

“I want to repeal those mandates so people can buy the kind of coverage that they want, not the kind of coverage that Hillary Clinton or Angie Craig think you need,” he said. “Then, if there’s still a problem, I don’t have a problem with keeping the sliding scale on the exchange.”

Lewis favors letting the market, not the government, determine the cost of coverage and allowing those in the individual market to purchase nationwide insurance policies.

He also hopes to reform a tax code he feels is rife with loopholes and credits for the politically powerful.

He supports the Tax Code Termination Act, which he said will help rebuild a “flatter, fairer” tax code by setting a three-year limit for the current code. This, he said, will bring rates down by 12 to 13 percent.

Although his controversial radio career could have ultimately cost Lewis votes in Minnesota’s politically mixed 2nd Congressional District, Craig’s campaign boasted significant financial advantage over her GOP opponent.

A quarterly report the Federal Election Commission issued in October indicated Craig’s campaign has $348,852 cash on hand and only $74,557 for Lewis. While Lewis’s campaign received $787,572 in contributions, Craig’s total exceeded $2.7 million.