MANKATO - With the Republican endorsement convention for the House District 19A special election today, delegates have three potential candidates to chose from.
The biggest name is Allen Quist, a St. Peter farmer, former legislator and college professor, who unsuccessfully ran for Minnesota's 1st Congressional District in 2012.
Quist has obvious strengths like name recognition and the majority of his campaign infrastructure still intact from his congressional run. He feels these assets make him the correct choice because he would not need to spend time and money to be familiarized with district voters. He also said he could hit the Legislature running because of his previous experience.
However, name recognition also carries baggage from the controversial statements he made in the 1980s and his congressional runs, such comparing a MSU-Mankato counseling center for homosexual to the KKK. Since the 2000s, Quist has focused on distancing himself from his past and said he will not focus on social issues in the race.
Quist's previous statements on homosexuality may also make the 19A voting demographics challenging. St. Peter's Ward 2, Precinct 1, which contains Gustavus Adolphus College, has the highest single voter concentration with 1,570 voters. This group of largely college students voted 77.5 percent against the Marriage Amendment in November and will be back in school in time for the Feb. 12 special election.
The next two biggest populations precincts, located next to the college, also voted down the amendment by fair majorities. Quist previously attributed turnout against the amendment to his congressional loss.
He also said he did not have any inherent delegate advantage because he had not focused on getting support delegates in 19A during his congressional run like he did in Olmsted County.
Jim Golgart is a veteran and long-time officer with the Veterans Affairs Office. He ran for the Nicollet County District 1 seat last fall, but came in third.
He said he feels competitive because he is a common sense leader who wants to get the state's budget under control.
While working with veterans, Golgart also has an opportunity to make himself seen as a leader on veteran issues.
However, Quist said he plans to bring up that Golgart's previous praise of 1st District Rep. Tim Walz, the DFL congressman who defeated Quist in 2012. Golgart said he was unconcerned and was only praising Walz as a function of his position as president of the Minnesota Association of County Veteran Service Officers, which was awarding Walz the "Legislator of the Year."
Joel Brinker served on the St. Peter Council eight years. He left in 2006 to run for the previous geographic area of 19A, but he did not proceed past the first round of the endorsement process.
Brinker said he can bring ambition and a willingness to discuss issues,
All Republican candidates said they will abide by the endorsement process.
Republicans face a challenging race in the Democrat-leaning 19A district.
General strategies suggested by Republican leadership in 19A have listed focusing on the rural segments, which voted more heavily Republican. However, 2012 results show that 15,373 voters, or 69 percent of the 22,189 registered voters, live in the urban portions of 19A within St. Peter, North Mankato and Mankato. The district also includes parts of rural Nicollet County and the city of Courtland.
Despite these hurdles, the Republican candidates remained optimistic.
Quist said a special election is an entirely different animal from general elections, so the typically low voter turnout makes "Get Out the Vote" effort the difference between winning and losing.
"This is a completely winnable seat," said Brinker.
The Republican endorsement convention starts at 7 p.m. tonight in the old movie theater at Mankato Place mall in downtown Mankato.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)