GILFILLAN ESTATE - The three major candidates for Minnesota's 1st Congressional District found a great deal of common ground, despite a few barbs, at the congressional forum held Tuesday at Farmfest.
Mike Parry and Allen Quist are Republican candidates competing into the Aug. 14 primary to be the official challenger to DFL incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Walz. Tuesday's panel was the first time the three candidates shared a joint meeting.
Despite the intensity of the mud slinging and political battling between Parry and Quist over the last few weeks, the two candidates avoided targeting each other. Walz was even able to make a sly joke on their more restrained appearance.
Staff photo by Josh Moniz
First District Congressman Tim Walz, left, participated in a forum at Farmfest on Tuesday with Republican candidates Mike Parry, center, and Allen Quist, right.
"I was a high school lunchroom supervisor for 20 years," said Walz, "I'm proud of you guys today, very proud."
The candidates were quizzed on whether they supported the current farm bill. Walz and Parry said they strongly supported the bill, agreeing that it was unacceptable that the bill was stalling due to politics. Quist said he opposed the farm bill because he considered it a food stamp bill with a farm bill rider. He said that the passage of the bill without clearly defined spending limits would only exacerbate the federal deficit, which he said threatens all farms. On Monday night at a Republican fundraiser, Quist said he believed the food stamp program was so fundamentally broken that people with Rolls-Royces could get food stamps. He relented from his statement after the forum on Tuesday, but he continued to insist that a massive overhaul of the system is required.
Walz shot back at Quist's food stamp bill claims later in the panel.
"Allen keeps calling this a food stamp bill. Maybe you should keep in mind that the vast majority [of food stamp users] are over the age of 65 or under the age of 3," said Walz.
Walz's statement received applause from the crowd.
The candidates unified over their opposition of an embargo on soybeans. Walz added that the U.S. should also use its soft power to protect farmers.
All three candidates also agreed that they took issue with how animal rights activists depicted farmers and the regulations they pushed for.
"I'm so offended when I'm told I mistreat my animals," said Parry, "I say, 'when was the last time you got up at 2 a.m. to nurse a lamb?'"
Walz echoed Parry's feelings.
"[The activists] need to make it clear what they want with us. If they want all us to be vegans, say so. Don't go through the courts," said Walz.
The candidates split the most on health care and how it relates to farmers. Quist called the Affordable Care Act complete unacceptable due to what he calls "The Marriage Penalty," which gives unmarried couples better insurance benefits than married couples. He claimed it amounted to discrimination against married couples. Parry similarly opposed the Affordable Care Act, though he didn't target Walz over his vote on the legislation. Walz said the programs the Affordable Care Act sought to provide were essentially to control health care costs.
In other news with the 1st District race, Walz sent out a request late Monday to Parry and Quist for three 90-minute debates with whomever wins the Aug. 14 primary. The first debate would be on jobs and the economy. The second debate would be on veterans and energy. The final would be a televised debate to be announced.
Parry and Quist said they would be more than willing to participate in the debates. Both said they might ask for additional debates.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)