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Woodbury man wins GOP 2nd District endorsement

ST. PAUL—An army of cheering, red-clad supporters boosted Woodbury resident Jason Lewis over David Gerson and his own dedicated band to win the Republican Party's endorsement for Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District on Saturday.

Lewis, a former talk-radio host, triumphed after the sixth ballot at the 2nd District Republican Party's convention in Apple Valley. Gerson, his sole remaining opponent, withdrew before the results were announced from the seventh ballot confirming Lewis' victory.

Before the vote, Gerson promised to abide by the party's endorsement even if it didn't go to him.

But at least one and possibly two candidates will challenge Lewis for the Republican nomination at the Aug. 9 primary. Businesswoman Darlene Miller has promised to run in the primary, while former state Sen. John Howe said he will decide soon whether to stay in the race.

Howe was eliminated after the second ballot. Miller asked to be removed from the ballot before voting began, acknowledging her lack of support among the delegates. Both hope they can do better among Republican voters as a whole than they did among the 309 delegates chosen from around the district.

Whichever candidate receives the GOP nomination will face former health care executive Angie Craig, the presumptive Democratic-Farmer-Labor nominee, in the November general election.

Lewis pitched himself as the candidate who best combined conservative values with electability.

"You need a candidate that likes to mix it up," Lewis said. "You need a candidate that believes in what he or she says."

This was Gerson's third run for the 2nd District Republican nomination, after two unsuccessful challenges to then-Rep. John Kline. Kline's retirement announcement last year gave Gerson a chance to marshal his loyal supporters for an open seat instead of challenging an incumbent.

But Gerson struggled with Lewis' argument that he wouldn't be able to compete in the primary and general election. After five ballots, Gerson waved a Lewis flyer attacking his fundraising in front of the delegates and tried to rebut it: "There is no doubt I can get the message out there."

Lewis overcame charges by opponents, particularly Howe, that he has "unelectable baggage," including controversial comments about women and slavery from Lewis' former radio show.

"Let them attack me all they want," Lewis said. "Every time they do, our numbers go up."

Lewis lives in Woodbury but would not represent Woodbury if elected.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.