By Josh Moniz
ST. PETER - The three candidates in the Minnesota House district 19A special election are taking dramatically different approaches to messaging and spending in their campaigns. An analysis of these elements provides rich details on each candidate's view on legislative topics.
Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years
Allen Quist, the Republican candidate in the 19A race, is attempting an almost unheard political upset for both the Minnesota Legislature and his personal political career.
Quist, a long-time farmer, got his political start by serving three terms in the Minnesota Legislature. He hit his political peak in 1994 by winning the Republican endorsement in the governor's race over a sitting governor and becoming a figure in that decade's insurgency of social conservatives in the Republican Party. But, he failed to win the race, a subsequent gubernatorial run and two congressional runs in 2010 and 2012.
Quist's run is unusual because he is pivoting down to a Minnesota Legislature run after losing to U.S. Rep. Tim Walz just last November. Quist himself said he thought that loss was the end of his political career, but he found himself incapable of slipping quietly into retirement. If he can pull off an election win in this race, he will have stunned long-time political watchers and made fascinated loop back home to the Legislature.
Quist vs Quist
Quist is seeking to sell himself to 19A voters as an agriculture-based legislator already sporting a track record of negotiating bipartisan compromise on important legislation. He is also touting himself as a foremost authority on government waste, pointing to his hand in establishing the Department of Jobs and Training and emphasizing his criticism of the state's Medicaid.
Quist's biggest hurdle has always been a history of controversial statements. The most highly publicized statements are of him claiming men are "genetically predisposed" to be the heads of households and of him comparing an Minnesota State University, Mankato, gay counseling center to the KKK. In addition, his run for the Legislature mean several statements and legislative actions have more importance in this race than they did in his congressional runs: in the 80s, he sponsored legislation requiring mandatory AIDS testing to obtain a marriage license. In the 90s, his gubernatorial platform included criticism of "no-fault divorce," proposing to give legal leverage to the partner who does not want the divorce, and a two-year limit on welfare benefits. In 2010, he said he is better suited for higher office because of his limited interest in "parochial issues, in bringing home the bacon."
Quist has argued voters do not care about the three-decade old quotes, citing as proof his opponent Walz's disinterest in using his controversial statements against him in last year's election. There is no clear indicator in the 19A district yet on whether Quist's claim is correct, but overcoming this part of his past with an election victory might well settle the issue for good. He already has a few factors going for him in this effort, such as the basic fact he was reelected to the Legislature three times during the period he made many of the comments.
Quist on legislative agenda
With the Legislature proposing several new gun control bills, Quist has stepped forward to present himself as a strong opponent of the bills, even traveling to one of the hearings as a show of support. He said research by John Lott shows that control measures have no impact on violence. Lott's research since publication has been discredited by several scientific journals and it has even been accused of fabricating its facts. He said attention needs to instead be focused on other areas, such as the correlation between school shooters and violent video games.
"We really need to see if we can do something about violent video games," said Quist, "They are a serious concern."
Quist has laid the biggest blame for the modern trend of school shootings, and crime in general during his gubernatorial runs, on "the deterioration of the family."
On education, Quist opposes investing in early education, claiming it has no benefits past third grade, and wants funding focus on gifted and talented programs.
He has publicly said he doubts the theories of Darwinism and global warming, publishing alternative curriculum modules critical of both during his non-legislative years. He emphasizes he wants a return of "teaching morals" in schools.
"One of the reason's we've become as a society of violence is we don't do a good job of teaching moral values like right to life and the Golden Rule in classrooms," said Quist.
On same sex marriage, he strongly opposes any legislation on the basis that "Western culture was founded on traditional marriage." He said the legislative focus needs to be on more important issues like the budget. He said he was uncertain how he felt about civil unions.
The special election will occur this Tuesday in the 19A district.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.