ST. PAUL - Mike Parry and Allen Quist, fellow Republican candidates for Minnesota's First Congressional District, delivered some sharp exchanges at their Friday debate on TPT's show "Almanac." However, the overall tone was muted compared to the heat generated between the two candidates over the last two weeks.
Parry started the debate by saying Quist's views were outside the mainstream, while simultaneously claiming he was not attacking Quist.
"We're been trying to compare the two of us," said Parry, "We're trying show how we differ."
Parry rattled off a number of controversial statements Quist made in the 1980s, which his campaign has been pressing this week. The claims included Quist stating he thought men were "genetically predisposed" to run households, his comparing of a MSU gay counseling center to the KKK and his "undercover" investigation of a Mankato adult book store over rampant sodomy claims.
Quist responded by accusing Parry of only providing negative, personal attack, citing that seven of his last eight posts on his campaign website were negative.
When asked by the moderators to give examples of how the campaigns differ, Parry only responded by accusing Quist of dodging responsibility.
"We're asking Mr. Quist to man up," said Parry, "He's running away from [his statements] so fast that he deserves an Olympic medal."
Quist claimed that Parry response was proof enough that he focused on negative attack over campaign issues.
The debate then moved on discuss the farm bill, which has stalled in recent days.
Quist said the Farm Bill was closer to a food stamp bill. He said it was unacceptable due to lack of spending limites on the bill. After the debate, Quist called the bill a food stamp bill with a farm bill rider. He said that there were portions of the Farm Bill he found acceptable. However, he said he wouldn't want it passed unless the U.S. Congress passed spending limits beforehand in January.
Quist has received over $500,000 in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2010.
Parry stated that he sent a letter as a Minnesota legislator and congressional candidate encouraging the bill.
The discussion then shifted to the federal health care overhaul, which is sometimes referred to as Obamacare. Both candidates said it should be entirely repealed.
Parry admitted he hadn't read the entire bill. But, he said there were some elements of the bill he would maybe keep when looking for a replacement. He said he approved of allowing children to stay on their parents insurance until 26 and some measures dealing with pre-existing conditions.
Parry's statement that he had not read the entire bill is interesting since he picked up an endorsement by 2010 Walz challenger Randy Demmer on Friday. Demmer himself received some flak for admitting he hadn't read the bill during his run.
Quist said he believed the problem could be entirely solved through free-market solutions, particularly with tort reform and deregulation of insurance companies.
Parry and Quist also found common ground in their support of the marriage amendment. Both said they thought it was a relevant issue to raise.
Drawing from some Quist's recent history of hosting U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, both candidates were asked about their thoughts on her recent claims that the Muslim Brotherhood was infiltrating the U.S. government.
Neither candidates were willing to comment on Bachmann's statements, which have drawn widespread criticism. However, both said they would not be willing to set back their support and connection with Bachmann.
The debate concluded with the moderators asking Parry whether it was appropriate to use 25-year old statements to criticize Quist.
Parry said it was very relevant, stating that he believed it showed the character of the candidate.
Quist responded by calling Parry a hypocrite. He said that Parry had claimed his controversial Tweets two years ago were not relevant to the campaign. In his prior tweets, Parry had linked Democrats to pedophiles for passing the Matthew Shepard Act. He also called Pres. Barack Obama a "Power Hungry Arrogant Black Man."
When asked post-debate, Parry would not make a definitive statement on whether his controversial statements were fair game given his use of Quist's controversial statements. However, he stated that he had apologized for his statements.
"I said I was sorry. That's not what's in my heart. That's not what's in my soul," said Parry.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org