SOUTHERN MINNESOTA - After months of grueling battle, Allen Quist defeated fellow Republican challenger state Sen. Mike Parry in the Tuesday primary election. Quist secured his position as the official Republican challenger to DFL incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in the November election.
The final total placed Quist at 54 percent of the votes, while Parry pulled in 46 percent.
In Brown County, Quist defeated Parry by a substantial margin. Quist garnered 532 votes, or 58.6 percent, while Parry only pulled in 375, or 41.4 percent. Separately, Walz brought in 349 votes for Brown County and 11,938 overall in the primary.
"We're certainly happy with the results," said Quist, "But, I also feel the awesome responsibility of being the Republican candidate for the district. I feel good, but I can definitely feel that weight on my shoulders."
Quist said it was hard to tell what led to his victory. He suggested it was his focus on addressing the federal debt over personal attacks. He claimed that 1st District voters were more interested in discussing the serious topics. He also credited his wife, whom he said has been an excellent campaign manager for him.
One potential contributing factor to Parry's defeat may have been a poorly timed gaffe on Aug. 6, during which Parry claimed Gov. Mark Dayton would "pop 15 to 16 pills in a meeting." He received widespread rebuke from Republican leadership for his claim, which he asserted was true.
Quist said he had no clue whether Parry's gaffe had any impact on the race. He claimed that his internal polling, which he stopped a few days ahead of the gaffe, showed him ahead of Parry by the same amount as his primary victory.
Regardless of the reasons for Quist's victory, he extended an olive branch to Parry on Tuesday night. During his victory speech, Quist called for the Republican Party to unite in the race and said he welcomed Parry to his campaign.
Parry conceded from the race shortly before 10:30 p.m. and vowed to support Quist in defeating Tim Walz this election.
"This is about a congressman who has failed to represent the 1st District," said Parry.
Parry publicly stated he considers Quist electable as a candidate, even with their previous targets of each other.
Despite Quist's victory, an intense three months loom ahead if he wants a chance at defeating Walz. Parry spent the last three months targeting Quist over his past controversial actions, including claiming men were "genetically predisposed" to lead households. The situation may have bruised Quist's campaign and given Walz free campaign fodder. Quist previously asserted he did not believe Walz would target him over his controversial actions.
Walz is in a very strong position this year compared to his closer race in 2010. Walz has been behind several popular pieces of legislation, including the STOCK Act. He also raised nearly four times as many campaign funds as the combined totals raised by Parry and Quist.
Quist previously said he will dedicate 50 percent of his time to fundraising post-primary. In his victory press release, Quist said he will accept Walz's challenge to three public debates on national issues. He said that he will also seek three topics of his own for debates.
In the release, Quist said the focus post-primary must be on serious, respectful debate on the national issues.
"We need to avoid negative, personal attacks that too often become the hallmark of campaigns today," said Quist in his release.
Low voter turnout
A notable aspect of Tuesday's primary was a very low voter turnout at the polls for both the state and Minnesota's 1st District.
Voter totals were not completed by the time this article went to print, but initial results hewed close to Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Richie's prediction of 15 percent voter turnout.
Brown County had only 1,340 voters out of 14,318 registered voters, or a 10.69 percent turnout.
Brown County Auditor-Treasurer Marlin Helget, who oversaw the Brown County elections, said he wasn't surprised by low voter turnout.
"It's not the lowest we have ever had. I think we went down to 8 percent at one point," said Helget, "I think [the low turnout] is due to more people being on vacation or away in August than in September."
Throughout the primary day, New Ulm election judges noted that they only received voters in groups of two or three at any point during the day. The judges also noted that many people they knew were unaware there was a primary election, even on Tuesday.
"I think that people just weren't that interested in the election we had," said Helget, "But, I still like it because it gives us more time to prepare for the November election."
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)