With Minnesota's August 14 primary less than two weeks away, Southern Minnesotans would expect local papers's op-ed pages to feature a raft of letters supporting either Mike Parry or Allen Quist for the Republican nomination for CD1. After all, many papers put a pre-election deadline on candidate letters and commentary, in order to prevent last-minute shenanigans.
While letters don't vote, they are an inexpensive form of earned media. They also indicate that a campaign has supporters willing to write letters supporting the candidate--or at least sign their names to letters drafted by campaign staff.
Few letters supporting either Parry or Quist are gracing the online sections of Southern Minnesota newspapers, whether daily or weekly. Of course, many small papers in Minnesota's own Land of Mayberry don't publish a website, and some that do don't include all the letters that subscribers will find in the print edition.
Letters to the editor also gain importance in rural counties far from the madding and major media markets.
The paucity of letters suggest that both campaigns have chosen to deploy their slender resources elsewhere--or simply haven't built the grassroots bases that make for a good grassroots LTE campaign. Those letters that appear do tend to support Quist.
The Winona Daily News letters section? None. Across the district at the Worthington Daily Globe? Nada. The New Ulm Journal? One inviting readers to a Quist town hall. That's the same case in the Fairmont Sentinel's letters section. Nothing in the Mankato Free Press. Or the Austin Herald. Zippo in the Herald's sister paper, the Albert Lea Tribune.
In the Owatonna People's Press letters section, a reader mentions Mike Parry in Steele County officials, legislators abuse per diem, but there's no mention of Quist or the primary. Elsewhere in the Huckle media chain papers in the district, Faribault Daily News has posted Mike Parry, best candidate for Republican Congressional primary by well-known Rice County Republican, Kathy Brown Dodds.
Update: After we read the Faribault Daily News this morning, Mike Parry is a Republican candidate we can trust, was published in the afternoon. [end update].
The other district papers in the chain are weeklies. The LTE section for the Waseca County News carries no letters on the contest, nor does that of the LeCenter Leader. In the LeSueur News-Herald, we learn that the Primary election important in Le Sueur County, but the letter urges support for a candidate for county commissioner. Likewise, the letters about the primary in the St. Peter Herald's online letters section concern other races, although there's one letter posted back in April expressing Betty Quiring's dismay at Allen Quist's behavior during the endorsing convention. The Lonsdale paper's letter section opens to a calendar.
The Byron Review/ Dodge Center Star Herald published the Quiring letter and Bob Nesbit's response blasting Parry, but no letter supporting or bashing either candidate since mid-June.
Moving on to other weeklies with online letters sections: there's nothing in Luverne's Rock County Star Herald, nothing in the Jackson County Pilot, nothing in the Lakefield Standard, nothing in Windom's Cottonwood County Citizen (Cottonwood County, like Rice County, is only partially in the First), nothing in the Mountain Lake Observer, nothing in the Prairie Publishing Group's weeklies for Madelia, Maple River (Mapleton), Hanska, Winnebago or Lafayette/Nicollet. The Heron Lake Tri-County News and the Nobles County Review don't have LTEs of any kind up right now in their Opinion sections.
Moving toward the eastern part of the district, the Bluff Country News Group includes papers covering southeastern Minnesota towns like Spring Valley, Preston, Chatfield, Lanesboro, Harmony, Mabel and Spring Grove. None of these venues has published a letter online supporting Parry or Quist.
Readers are also silent about the primary in the Fillmore County Journal's letters section, though they have opinions about other matters. In the Caledonia Argus, there are two May letters inviting readers to a Quist town hall, but nothing more recent for either candidate. LaCrescent's Houston County News' LTE section has posted any supporter letters. The Rushford Tri-County Record's website includes a letters section, but nothing is there right now.
Blue Earth's Faribault County Register doesn't appear to post LTEs online in the opinion section, nor does the Dodge County Independent. The Stewardville Star, the New Prague Times (partly in LeSueur County), the New Richland Star Eagle and Blooming Prairie Times don't post letters online either. The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch hasn't updated letters online since 2009, while the St. James Plaindealer hasn't updated its letters section since February.
This state of affairs contrasts sharply with LTEs written during the last contested nomination among Republicans in Minnesota's Fighting First when former senator Dick Day challenged Brian Davis in 2008.
Since neither candidate is endorsed, the machinery of the cash-strapped Republican Party of Minnesota can't come to their aid. Allen Quist is running television and radio ads, holding town halls, and doing the usual visibility things like parades and attending events like the Olmsted County Issues & Answers Fair. Parry doesn't have the money for an air war, but he's conducting meet & greets and visibility.
Parry's FEC pre-primary report has yet to post online, so it's anybody's guess what the state senator from Waseca has to spend on targeted GOTV to the Republican base. Quist? After the ad buys, there was $117,878.60 is his bank account. That figure can buy some serious GOTV in the Land of Many Mayberries.
Image: Allen Quist, by Ken Avidor.