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Dayton: Parry's pill comment is 'gutter politics'

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Mike Parry
Republican State Sen. Mike Parry is one of two Republicans seeking the GOP endorsement to run against DFLer Tim Walz in the state's 1st Congressional District. Parry called Gov. Mark Dayton a pill popper during a fundraiser in Brown County on Monday.
MPR File Photo/Mark Zdechlik

State Sen. Mike Parry, who is also seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in the 1st District, is under fire for claiming that he saw Gov. Mark Dayton take pills.

Parry, of Waseca, said at a campaign event late Monday that he saw Dayton  take 15 or 16 pills during a private negotiating session and that Dayton is "scary." The accusations, which come a week before the primary election, led Dayton to suggest that they are a sign of desperation from a candidate who is losing.

Parry's comments, videotaped by a New Ulm Journal reporter, came during a Brown County Republican fundraiser that featured Parry and his opponent in Tuesday's primary, former state Rep. Allen Quist. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills also was at the fundraiser.

During his speech, Parry took aim at Dayton, calling him the most liberal governor in the nation. He then dropped the bombshell that he attended meetings where Dayton took a large amount of pills.

"When you sit across from him and watch him pop 15 to 16 pills while you're having a meeting, it's scary," Parry said. "We all know how scary Obama is; he is at the same level."

Parry didn't return calls seeking an interview. But his campaign manager, Ben Golnik, said Parry stands by his comments and won't apologize. Dayton, who has acknowledged that he battles alcoholism and depression, has said that he relies on medication, exercise and diet to treat his depression. But the governor called Parry's remarks a lie and an exaggeration. He noted that Parry's comments come at a time when he's engaged in a bitter primary battle with Quist, of St. Peter.

"In this era of gutter politics, something like that, especially somebody who probably thinks he's losing an election in six days is going to reach for anything he can and try to make an issue out of it and blow it up and see if he can get an advantage with it," Dayton said. "To me it says a lot more about him than it does about me."

Dayton also said he has taken antacids from time to time to deal with lawmakers like Parry. Dayton said he doesn't want an apology from Parry for the pill comments but does want a retraction for Parry's suggestion at the Brown County fundraiser that Dayton cut veterans services.  

This isn't the first time Parry has made controversial comments about a chief executive. Parry once wrote on his Twitter account that President Barack Obama is a "power hungry arrogant black man." He later deleted the tweet.

Parry's latest comments may undercut one of his key arguments as to why he's a better candidate than Quist. For weeks, Parry has suggested Quist's past controversial statements about social issues would make him a flawed candidate against U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat, in November.

There has been no public polling done in the race to see whether Quist or Parry has an advantage. But Dan Hoffrening, a political science professor at St. Olaf College, said such comments will hurt Republicans in the general election.

"I think this kind of contest, the second it's gotten nasty, it paints a negative brush on the whole party and paints a negative brush on whoever emerges," he said. 

Hoffrening also said it's likely that whoever wins the GOP primary will be well behind in fundraising. The latest fundraising report shows Walz with $800,000 in the bank. That's more than five times what Parry and Quist have left to spend combined.