A friend sent a letter in the Mankato Free Press today (it's in the print edition, though I can't find it online). In "Parry’s real world experience needed," a supporter repeats the standard talking points:
There are too many career politicians in politics these days.
I was disappointed when Alan Quist decided to run for office again this year. Quist hasn’t won an election since the 1980s and has lost five elections since that time. Quist seems to believe that his controversial statements from the past will be forgotten. If Quist were to be the Republican candidate for Congress in November, our local candidates would be impacted negatively. We need a strong Republican at the top of the ticket and that candidate is Mike Parry.
Parry grew up on a family farm and understands agriculture very well.
Parry is also a veteran and has done great work for veterans during his time in the state Senate. Most importantly, Parry is a small business owner.
We need more normal people from the real world in office — not perennial candidates like Quist.
Setting aside the question as whether seeking office and not getting an endorsement counts toward "losing an election," there's some oddball logic about the "real world" in this letter.
In a heavily agricultural district like the First, one has to wonder why a campaign would pretend that farming isn't a business or part of the "real world," regardless of how abnormal Allen Quist is. Quist farms 800 acres in Nicollet County. He's also taught college and written books (albeit conservative ones).
Perhaps Parry wants to go down the anti-intellectual route, but it's hard to see how the conservative Republican base in Southern Minnesota would appreciate dissing Bethany College, a small private, religious and quite conservative school. Nor would slamming Quist's work with EdWatch be winner among these voters.
Parry's political resume
And as far as running for office goes? Mike Parry has been a political candidate himself since 2004. He ran unopposed for Waseca City Council in 2004, was throw out of office in the first contested election 2008 after creating acrimony with city employees and trying to sell a city park. He next launched a bid to challenge Kory Kath in the Minnesota House, then hooked up with Michael Brodkorb when Dick Day left office in mid-term to lobby for racino. Parry won the special election for the historically Republican senate district, then defeated his challenger in the 2010 Republican wave election to retain that Republican seat.
This is supposed to be the record of a game changer?
Moreover, a signficant portion of Mike Parry's work record involves public emloyment in law enforcement and managing radio stations. Like Quist's work as a professor, there's nothing on the face of these professions that should be a liability.
But both men are attention-seeking politicians--and a farm is a small business. Indeed, farming be what it is, keeping the family farm going is testamtent to Quist's business acumen. Both make controversial statements; both try to explain them away.
Conventional reporting and the conventional wisdom
Witness the way each candidate packages himself in the pre-primary candidate profiles in the Rochester Post Bulletin this week. This is standard fare, where a reporter challenges little that an office seeker says as he presents himself. Thus in Fears about nation's rising debt spurs Quist to run, we read things like:
In 1994, Quist pulled off a major upset by winning the Republican Party's endorsement over then-Gov. Arne Carlson. Despite the endorsement, Carlson soundly defeated Quist in the primary. The St. Peter Republican ran for governor again in 1998 but dropped out before the state convention. Twelve years later, Quist returned to politics to run for the 1st Congressional seat.
While Quist's name never made it to the general public in 1998, the claim that he dropped out before the 1998 convention--also found on Wikipedia--isn't accurate. For the facts--and a terrific read--try Britt Robson's engaging The Brilliant Demise of Allen Quist, set at the convention.
But Quist's stirring freedom-from-slavery speech overcame the reservations of Schroers and hundreds of others. As predicted, Coleman captured just over 40 percent of the vote on the first ballot. But Quist emerged a strong second, with around 33 percent, beating out Benson by 8 percentage points. Quist had confounded the prognosticators and proved himself a force to be reckoned with inside the Target Center. Ironically, he'd also doomed any chance he had of playing power broker at the convention.
Read the rest. Likewise, sticking to the convention of the bland candidate profile glosses over some of the truths about Mike Parry in Parry brings businessman's perspective to the race. There's no mention of how Parry's style created tension with city staff, and his version of the Maplewood Park story is the only side readers learn. A good look at local papers, discussion with local leaders in Waseca and a review of the City Council minutes and other public records might better shed light than merely Parry's version.
And Parry's claim about apologizing for the tweets takes an encore bow:
Parry has made his own controversial statements. Before the 2010 Senate special election, Parry sent a tweet in which he called President Obama "a power hungry arrogant black man." In May 2009 he sent a tweet asking, "What's up with Dems and pedophiles?" That tweet came when a Democratically-controlled Congress was seeking to expand the federal hate-crimes law to cover crimes motivated by a victim's sexual orientation. Those tweets were later deleted, and Parry said he made a mistake and apologized.
Last year, Parry wasn't particularly apologetic to Minnpost columnist Doug Grow about his tweets. Check out Grow's column, GOP hardliner Sen. Mike Parry not afraid to tweet what he believes. Those apologies only seem handy when he's blasting Quist for old cray-cray statements.
Sleep: truthiness as the poppy fields of the voters
Given the standard issue politician's persona that each man wears, it's no wonder, then, that turnout for the MN CD1 Republican primaryis expected to match Parry & Quist's fundraising.
Or that voters are largely unenthusiastic with the race, as little as they might have heard about Quist's peculiar sentiments. As Politics in Minnesota's Brians Bierschbach reports in The storm before the quiet: Parry, Quist trade increasingly bitter blows:
Republican 1st Congressional District candidates Mike Parry and Allen Quist may have spent the last few weeks trading barbs in press releases and news accounts, but many of those who actually live in the state’s southernmost district haven’t seemed to notice. . . .
In fact, [local GOP party officials] say the campaigns have been surprisingly low-key since April, when Parry and Quist deadlocked in a historic, 23-ballot endorsing convention. . . .
Bruce Kaskubar, head of the Olmsted County Republicans, says the same is true in his area. “There’s just not as much activity as I thought,” he said. “I think it’s been tough for these two guys to get their name out there. The district is large, and I think there are a lot of people who don’t even know there is a primary for the congressional candidate yet.”
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Cartoon: Mike Parry and Allen Quist, aka Itchy and Scratchy (top); Allen Quist, by Avidor.