NEW ULM - After months of limited action following April's failed Republican endorsing convention for Minnesota's 1st District, candidates state Sen. Mike Parry and former state representative Allen Quist have engaged in a war of words over their respective voting records.
The situation originated last Monday with a Parry e-mail criticizing Quist for his 1986 vote to raise Minnesota's gas tax. Parry claimed he has never voted to raise taxes, making him the true conservative in the race.
Quist responded by admitting he voted for the gas tax, but would not vote for it again in the current economy or if it was dedicated towards light rail projects.
Quist also went on the offensive, calling Parry's no-tax claims false because he was an author of a bill in 2011 that expanded racino gambling.
Parry fired back Tuesday in campaign e-mail, where he claimed the bill was intended to break up an unfair monopoly of state gambling by tribal organizations. He also claimed the legislation would be a significant boost to the equine industry.
Parry accused the Taxpayer League of being a special-interest group that was in the pocket of tribal interests.
Parry reasserted his claim Wednesday, despite being one of the few Senators to sign the pledge. He said he completely denies the claim that racino expansion is a tax because people are not obligated to gamble. He said that he lost all respect for the Taxpayer League when they called it a tax, and accused the organization of only caring about tribal interests.
"In places like Pittsburgh, they've done similar legislation and expanded to a $4.2 billion equine industry," said Parry, "Wouldn't $4.2 billion be a great benefit for Minnesota?"
Quist called Parry's statement on the Taxpayer League a major misstep for a politician looking to attract Tea-Party voters.
"It's really important to build a coalition in a campaign. Shutting down Republicans that care about not raising taxes is a campaign- ending mistake," said Quist.
The situation seems to indicate Parry and Quist are in for a hard-fought race to the Aug. 14 primary, where the Republican challenger to DFL incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Walz will be selected.
Republican activists in the region have expressed concern that a prolonged battle between Quist and Parry would only provide ammo for the Walz campaign.
To address concerns about a long race, Parry and Quist previously pledged to remain focused on Walz rather than on each other. The recent scuffle seems to undermine that focus. However, both sides are claiming they only responded to attacks from the other side.
Parry claimed the gas tax criticism was in response to various statements Quist made about him at town halls. Quist claimed he was intending to not focus on Parry, but is obligated to respond when criticized.
"There's an unwritten rule of politics that you have to counter-attack when attacked," said Quist, "It's not my intention to bring criticism, but Parry forced my hand. If he attacks again, I will counter attack hard."
Beyond the battle, Quist provided some updated information for his major fundraising push this week.
Quist is debuting the first TV ad of the campaign towards the end of this week. The $100,000 ad campaign will target nearly all cable channels across southern Minnesota, two major local networks in Rochester and KEYC in Mankato.
Quist said he plans to have the ad available to the public on his campaign website by Friday.
Quist also updated his expected campaign fundraising totals for the second quarter, which covers April 1 to June 30. He reports that he raised $178,230 in campaign contributions, with no loans, and $165,000 left in the bank at the end of the quarter.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)