Until today, it was unclear whether perennial candidate Allen Quist would enter the Minnesota House District 19A race, especially after stellar veterans' advocate Jim Golgart entered the 19A race as a GOP contender yesterday.
But Quist jumped in today, and the 1980s-era anti-sodomy crusader and culture warrior is already setting himself apart from the herd of cats running for the open seat by his mention of "welfare" and academic standards--a dogwhistle to the current battle over the state's revised social studies standards, which is largely led by conservative education group Education Liberty Watch.
Governor Dayton has yet to set the date for the special election prompted by the resignation of Rep. Terry Morrow, who ran unopposed in the 2012 election.
Robin Courrier, Clark Johnson and Karl Johnson are competing for the DFL endorsement, Tim Gieseke plans an Independence Party bid and Golgart will battle Quist for the Republican nod. The winner will represent Nicollet County, Kasota, and parts of Mankato.
Bread & butter issues v. culture war
Quist is the first candidate to bring up an issue that points to cultural warfare.
The New Ulm Journal's Josh Moniz reports Clark Johnson, Jim Golgart enter 19A race that neither of the candidates to announce yesterday are concerned with social issues, but plan to focus on the bread and butter concerns they believe are most on district residents' minds:
[Golgart] said he has no interest in running on any social issues for the special election nor pushing any if elected. . . .
. . .Johnson has no interest in pushing any kind of social issues in either the race or the Legislature.
"I think the time is not right for social issues. We saw what happened with the last Legislature when they over emphasized [social issues]. They got diverted and ended up with having to have a special session," said Johnson.
That's pretty much where the other candidates are: upgrading the local "death road" that is Highway 14, the budget, fixing education funding, jobs.
Not so with Allen Quist. Here's the dog whistling passages, along with a curious claim about his effectiveness as a legislator:
Because Quist served three terms in the Minnesota House in the 1980s, Quist would enter the Legislature with three terms of seniority. “Both experience and seniority are major factors in being effective,” Quist said.
Quist also said that his record of being bi-partisan is a significant asset in promoting good government. “Good legislation is almost always bipartisan,” he said. Quist was chief author of the bill that created what was then called Minnesota’s Department of Jobs and Training. Quist said he worked closely with then DFL Governor Rudy Perpich in drafting and passing that bill. Quist said the purpose of the bill was helping people become self-sufficient as opposed to keeping them on welfare.
Repeal of the controversial education policy known as the “Profile of Learning” was another of Quist’s accomplishments. Quist said he won the support of Education Minnesota in that successful repeal effort.
As interesting as that framing is to Allen Quist, it's not exactly how it happened.
In fact, when the Profiles were scrutinized beginning in 1999, then repealed in 2003, Quist wasn't serving in the legislature--and some of those those who were scrambled to distance themselves from the unsuccessful 1994 gubernatorial candidate.
Placing this "accomplishment" on his resume, right after noting the successful authorship of one bill passed while he served, without noting when the Profile was repealed and what his specific role was in this process, is something on the sketchy side.
The claim to Education Minnesota support for his efforts is also fuzzy. Looking into Nexis, it's not clear whether Education Minnesota was supporting Allen Quist specifically when it finally shifted from a "fix it or repeal it" position in 1999 to agreeing to the 2003 repeal; indeed, it's not clear that he can take full credit for the repeal of the Profile of Learning.
Bluestem has contacted Education Minnesota, which is reviewing its institutional history of how it came to support the 2003 repeal. Update: We've posted the response here: Specialpalooza: Education Minnesota responds to Allen Quist's puzzling 19A bid press release [end update].
In fact, here's some evidence that legislators distanced themselves from Quist as support for the Profile vanished, though they supported the call for reform or repeal.
On February 12, 1999, St. Paul Pioneer Press staff writer Paul Tosto reported in "House Kills Profile:". . . But as the debate shifts now to the Senate, observers there see interest in tinkering with the Profile, but not killing it altogether.
"I think in the Senate, we're going to be a little bit more prudent than they were in the House," said Senate Majority Whip Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing.
The Profile's paperwork burden and complex grading system had become a fiasco, acknowledged Murphy, who also sits on the Senate Children, Families and Learning committee. The Senate, he added, is interested in maintaining some of the statewide standards laid out in the Profile's 10 learning areas, then leaving it up to districts to decide how to achieve them.
"The gist of what they're (the House) doing is correct. But I don't want to be tied in with Allen Quist and some of those people," said Murphy. Quist is a former gubernatorial candidate who has attacked the Profile repeatedly as harmful to education and has pushed for its end. (Nexis All News, accessed 1/4/2013)
And as for Education Minnesota's position, Tosto reported:
Backers praised its emphasis on hands-on learning, original research and community interaction. Critics dismissed it as bureaucratic busywork with little connection to learning.
Even the state's biggest teachers union, Education Minnesota, urged lawmakers to "fix the Profile of Learning or get rid of it," after a membership survey found 63 percent of teachers opposed to the current rule.
There are only three articles in the Nexis All News database that are returned by the search string "Allen Quist AND Profile of Learning AND Education Minnesota," and neither of the other two include Education Minnesota's position on the repeal.
Allen Quist wasn't serving in the legislature when the Profile was adopted in 1998; a report by the conservative group Eagle Forum noted opposition to the Profile by Marty Seifert and Gene Pelowski.
And while Education Minnesota supported the final bill that replaced the Profile with the state developing a set of standards in 2003, Quist wasn't serving in the legislature at the time, nor was the repeal credited to him at that time. Rather, then-state senator Michele Bachmann's name comes up most, while future Bachmann congressional aides Julie Quist and Renee Doyle of EdWatch are mentioned in the writeup of the repeal by Eagle Forum. The author of the repeal bill in the House was Rep. Tony Kielkucki, R-Lester Prairie.
In other works, like Fed Ed, Quist argues a deliberate conspiracy to dumb down students.
What's academic? A look at Quist's curriculum modules
Moreover, Quist's version of academic standards might be the very definition of political. The Curriculum Modules he edited remain online. He bills them:
CMods provides accurate and exciting new information for teachers and other interested persons. This information is generally unavailable in school textbooks because it contradicts the worldviews of the education establishment. The information is presented in the form of curriculum modules that may be downloaded or used in other ways by teachers, parents or anyone else, free of charge. The mods are designed to supplement and/or correct current textbooks.
And what is in this "accurate" information? That dinosaurs and people inhabited the planet at the same time and the prehistoric "super croc" is the behemoth mentioned in the Book of Job. Promised, but not delivered? Darwinism today. The editor of those modules isn't the person Bluestem would want deciding academic standards.
The new standards aren't perfect--as someone who worked in Ben Franklin's Library Company for nearly five years, Bluestem's owner can spot the need for some tweaking-- but Eric Austin's assessment, My Thoughts On The Minnesota Social Studies Standards And The REAL Outrage… is more on the money.
Perhaps most importantly, this is something of a coterie issue, so the dog whistle is all the more obvious.
Quist not interested bringing home the bacon?
But what's most surprising that Quist is running for the state legislature at all, especially where a parochial, bringing-home-the-bacon issue like upgrading Highway 14 is important.
In 2009, Minnesota Independent reported Andy Birkey reported in Is Quist still the religious right candidate?:
But earlier in his career he said politics isn’t his strongest suit. In the 1994 Star Tribune profile on him and his family, Dane Smith reported that legislators who worked with Quist in the capitol said he was “something of a loner in the Legislature, preferring to socialize with lobbyists and activists who opposed abortion rather than with his colleagues. He did little to build the personal contacts and rapport that is crucial to enactment of legislation.”
“He agrees that his character was not well-suited to the back-slapping and tending to the narrow needs of a legislative district,” Smith continued.
Quist agreed with that assessment. “I’m much more at home running for statewide office,” he said. “I was never that interested in parochial issues, in bringing home the bacon.”
Now, however, he's all about those things.
Cartoon: Allen Quist, by Ken Avidor.
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