Minnesota deaths related to COVID-19 recently surpassed 2,000 – no doubt a sad statistic and one that deserves respect.

Of those deaths, nearly three quarters were residents of senior living facilities. Another sad statistic.

But since the bulk of Minnesota’s coronavirus deaths have been in confined facilities and among residents who are not out among the state’s general populace, is a continued shutdown of Minnesota business warranted?

Many Democrats think so, apparently including Sen. Tina Smith. Although Minnesota’s approach is not her decision, it portrays her beliefs.

“I believe the path back to economic strength is a path through protecting our public health,” Smith said during a debate hosted by the Duluth News Tribune and that city’s Chamber of Commerce. “I think we can do that by a national strategy for testing and contact tracing.”

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Smith’s opponent, former congressman Jason Lewis, has a decidedly different view.

“This overreaching lockdown … needs to be lifted and lifted now,” Lewis, a Republican, said. “Meanwhile, Sen. Smith was voting three times against COVID relief. It is unconscionable that you put small businesses out of business and then deny them relief. We need to move forward and get this economy open.”

Lewis is right, and based on Smith’s votes against coronavirus business relief and other stances that restrict rather than promote business in Minnesota, we give our support to Lewis, who represented Minnesota’s Second Congressional District from 2016 to 2018.

Lewis is notably pro-business, and it’s that approach that Minnesota voters should consider when deciding who will represent them in the Senate.

Lewis also appears to have more interest in pushing initiatives that will help boost business in places like the Iron Range and in north-central and northwestern Minnesota. He supports initiatives to boost nickel and copper mining in the Iron Range, and he vows to push for a restart on the Enbridge Line 3 project, which seeks to carry oil through the state.

Smith – who came into the Senate as a replacement for Al Franken, who resigned in 2018 – has not heaped support onto certain environmental proposals that would limit mining and oil production, but she also hasn’t added her voice against them, either.

For example, Lewis – during the Duluth debate – said that if he is elected, he will work to block a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., that would negatively affect mining. Lewis said nickel and copper mining in northeast Minnesota could lead to a “renaissance” in the Iron Range. Smith hasn’t signed on to the McCollum bill, but she also hasn’t denounced it.

Last year, when the Senate debated the Green New Deal – the controversial climate change proposal introduced by Democrats that would limit mining, oil extraction and the like – Smith avoided the fray by choosing not to vote one way or another. That’s not leadership.

Smith too closely adheres to some of the Democratic Party’s most liberal beliefs, including hesitancy on pro-business tax cuts. It’s just too much of one party and one set of beliefs in a state that is veering toward the political middle.

A delegation that includes Democrats Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Collin Peterson, who is up for reelection in his congressional race, needs a Republican to better reflect Minnesota’s values. Lewis would be the perfect counterweight and is the best choice for Minnesotans.

This endorsement represents the opinion of Forum Communications Co. management.