Allen Quist couldn't be happier with his latest campaign.
The former state representative, farmer and retired school teacher has a lot experience running for office; Quist has run successfully for the state House, unsuccessfully twice ran for governor and once for Congress.
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This time, as he runs for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District, he says his message is resonating.
"You don't win elections by not engaging in a debate in a forceful, clear way. I do that," Quist said.
Quist proposes setting limits that would force lawmakers to cut spending and balance the federal budget.
He said he's tackling the nation's biggest issue head-on in a way his Republican opponent state Sen. Mike Parry is not. That's why Quist said he's the best choice for Republicans to run against current U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat.
"It's really, I would say, a no-brainer that I have what it takes to run a good campaign against Mr. Walz. He doesn't."
Parry, a retired cop who owns a pizza shop in Waseca, said he too strongly supports balancing the federal budget. Like Quist, Parry said the House Republican plan outlined by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan takes too long to stem the flow of red ink. But Parry said he's not sure the budget can be balanced in five years, as Quist is proposing.
Parry insists Quist would have no chance of winning a general election because of controversial things he has said and done. Among other things, the Parry campaign has publicized Quist statements from the mid-1990s about men being genetically predisposed to be heads of households.
Parry said even if Quist were to make it to Washington, he's too polarizing to build the kind of coalition it will take to address the budget imbalance.
"We need to balance the budget, but you better be able to be a person that can build a group of the conservatives on both sides of the aisle, because if you can't do that, one person cannot balance that budget," Parry said.
Farming drives much of the economy of the 1st District and Quist and Parry do not agree on the farm bill currently being debated in Washington. Parry has urged Congress to pass the bill. Quist sai it's too expensive, and that he'd vote no.
As for Parry's contention Quist is too controversial to get elected, Quist counters that Parry has his own record of questionable statements including a tweet Parry sent referencing President Barack Obama's race a couple of years ago.
Just this week, Parry called Gov. Mark Dayton "scary" and referenced a meeting with Dayton in which he said he saw the governor, "pop 15 to 16 pills." Dayton and even other Republicans said that wasn't true.
Steve Perkins, who's been active in 1st District Republican politics for a long time, predicts southern Minnesota Republicans will unite around the primary winner. He said Parry and Quist share similar positions on the major issues and he said Republicans are eager to vote against Walz.
"I just do not see this as being immensely divisive," Perkins said. "The president has unified Republicans more than Republicans could have every unified themselves and Congressman Walz has helped that by being so close to the president."
At the Freeborn County Fair in Albert Lea, GOP volunteer Katie Jacobsen said she's disappointed it's taking a primary to settle on a candidate to face Walz. Jacobsen thinks Republicans lost an opportunities to focus on the Democrat.
"Because they would have been able to campaign a little bit more," she said.
Jacobsen was a delegate to the 1st Congressional District Republican Convention in April where, after 23 rounds of balloting, she and the others deadlocked on the endorsement. She won't say who she's supporting.
As for who she thinks going to win on Tuesday, she points back to the divided convention as evidence enough that the primary outcome is too close to call.