Owatonna People's Press staff writer Derek Sullivan reports in Walz, Quist eye Steele County that each candidate hopes to capture the hearts and votes of the sixth largest population of the twenty-one counties that form Minnesota's First Congressional District.
While Walz won the county in 2008 and 2010, Quist believes that he will be a better fit for Steele County. Sullivan reports:
Quist has been a farmer in Nicollet County and a teacher at Bethany Lutheran in Mankato. As he has traveled across Steele County, he noticed its resemblance to Nicollet and Blue Earth.
“We are so similar to Steele County. We’re agricultural, small business, higher education. We are the same in terms of demographics and economics,” Quist said. “If I’m elected, it will be my job to represent everyone in the district. For Steele County, that will be easy because we are just totally on the same page with same interests.”
Given that a majority of voters in Blue Earth and Nicollet County have selected Walz in 2006, 2008 and 2010, Steele County's resemblance to Walz's home county and unopposed DFLer Terry Morrow's Nicollet County might not indicate that voters there "are just totally on the same page" with Quist.
Tossed from his Minnesota House seat by Nicollet County voters in the 1980s, Quist was defeated by moderate, pro-choice sitting Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson in the 1994 Minnesota Republican gubernatorial primary although Quist had received the party's endorsement at it convention. Quist did not win Steele and Nicollet Counties in that primary, and Steele County is the only part of Mike Parry's senate district that voted for the Waseca state senator in the primary. It's not exactly Quist country.
Sullivan reports that Walz believes he'll keep Steele County in his win column because votes have noticed his ability to work across party lines to get work done that's helpful for the area:
Walz said a key reason he has been able to carry Steele County in the past two elections is that local residents have noticed that he puts policy ahead of politics. He said he worked with Owatonna mayor Tom Kuntz, who ran as a Republican for state House in 2008, on Highway 14 issues.
“Steele County, and Owatonna as its hub, is critically important,” he said, “and I don’t just say that from a political standpoint. These are communities that, for generations, are smart and well-invested. These are quality places where you want to raise your kids.”
District-wide, Owatonna is the fourth-largest city with a population of about 26,000 people. Walz also said its centralized location and its growing airport make it an important place for southern Minnesota businesses.
“Many people do not realize how many people fly into Owatonna for business,” Walz said.
The Republican congressional primary in CD1 didn't generate as much turnout among conservative voters as rancor between the contenders. Will Quist manage to raise money and interest as November nears, or will Walz's cash advantage and general likeability hold sway in Steele County?
Photo: Walz (the guy in glasses) helps Kory Kath and Mike Parry cut the ribbon on Highway 14's new 4-lanes in August. He's running with scissors.