After months of avoiding direct shots at each other, the two Republican candidates competing for the right to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in Minnesota's 1st Congressional district, are going on the offensive.
As the Aug. 14 Republican primary approaches, the rhetoric between state Sen. Mike Parry and former state Rep. Allen Quist has heated up. With less than three weeks before the primary, both candidates are trying to define each other in the southern Minnesota district.
The two candidates will debate at 7 p.m. Friday on TPT's Almanac.
For most of the campaign, Parry and Quist have focused their criticism on Walz and President Barack Obama. But their tactics have changed in the past week, as Parry brought up votes Quist cast when he was in the Legislature in the 1980s to raise the gas tax and comments he made more than 15 years ago about social issues.
Day after day, Parry's campaign has called on Quist to "man up" and admit saying that women are genetically predisposed to being subservient to men and comparing a gay counseling center to the Ku Klux Klan.
Parry contends Quist's record will become an even bigger issue in the November general election if he wins the primary and faces off against Walz, who is seeking a fourth term.
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"We believe that if it is about Mr. Quist then it's going to be all about the gas tax, the sales tax, the statements made that men being predisposed to be heads of households and all of those things that he has in his career," Parry said. "That's what it will be on."
Parry, of Waseca, said he's better suited to challenge Walz. He said Republicans are more inclined to support him when they learn about Quist's record including his 1986 vote to raise the gas tax.
"If you voted that way once, what's going to make a difference that you aren't going to vote that way in Washington?" he asked.
Quist, of St. Peter, counters that Parry is distorting his record and said he's the better candidate.
In a statement attacking Parry for diverting attention to what he called irrelevant and personal non-issues, Quist on Thursday apologized for the KKK quote, which he said he didn't remember. He said his comments 18 years ago about the roles of women and men have no bearing on this year's campaign.
Quist also said he visited an adult book store in Mankato 24 years ago to investigate whether it posed a risk to public health — a concern he said was remedied by his investigation. He sponsored an amendment to a bill to forbid sexual acts in a place of business. He said Parry is running a desperate campaign.
"One of the rules in politics is that when you're behind, you attack," Quist said.
Quist said he did vote to raise the gas tax to fund repairs to pay for roads and bridges but defends it on the grounds the funds were offset by income tax cuts.
Quist is also taking aim at Parry's conservative credentials. Quist has been campaigning heavily on erasing the federal deficit in five years without raising taxes. He said Parry isn't willing to accept that sort of timeline.
"My position is that if you don't have a date certain it is meaningless," Quist said. "And that is an extraordinarily important difference between the position I have taken compared to the one he has taken."
The two candidates were forced into a primary battle after GOP delegates deadlocked on an endorsement this spring after a 14-hour debate.
Quist has a significant financial advantage over Parry but that's largely due to his use of his personal wealth. The $243,160 Quist has raised includes $195,000 he lent his campaign.