SOUTHERN MINNESOTA - With Tuesday's primary election over, Allen Quist has a hard slog ahead of him in the general election against DFL incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.
Quist's Republican opponent Mike Parry already eliminated one potential hurdle by extending the olive branch on primary night and in his last campaign e-mail, encouraging his supporters to unite behind Quist against Walz. Parry, who has already closed down his campaign cell phone and website before leaving on a family vacation, could not be reached for comment. But, he said on primary night that he would help the Quist campaign however he could.
Quist's challenge is having barely two months to refocus his messaging on how he contrasts with Walz. Quist decided to take his candidacy to a primary after the April endorsement convention failed to pick a candidate. However, his slugfest with Parry left with almost no time to campaign against Walz.
Walz has had a particularly strong run this year, pushing through the passage of several very popular legislative pieces like the STOCK Act. Quist will have to bring concentrated, consistent messaging if he wants to gain traction for his argument that he is the true representation of Minnesota's 1st Congressional District. Quist already has considerable name recognition in southern Minnesota, but the details of his plan to balance the federal budget has somewhat faded into the background.
Quist will also likely be forced to fully confront his past controversial actions and statements. His actions included an "undercover" investigation of a Mankato adult book store, claims that men are "genetically predisposed" to lead households and claims that defeating Walz and President Obama was more important than terrorism. Quist initially denied, then admitted these actions when Parry targeted him as unelectable over them.
Walz campaign manager Sara Severs said the Walz campaign would focus on debating the issues, but she acknowledged that Quist's controversies would be used as part of a comparison of the two candidates' approaches to the major issues.
"We'll have a vigorous debate and stay focused on policy implications. We'll focus on what has been [Walz's] views on the issues compared to [Quist's] views," said Severs.
Quist has limited time to make up his sizable fundraising deficit that was hamstrung by the undetermined nature of primary race. Quist has said he will dedicate 50 percent of his post-primary time to fundraising and claimed that major Republican donors were waiting for a primary winner before contributing.
Last quarter, Quist only raised just over $8,000 while funding himself $170,000. So far, Quist has contributed over $200,000 of his own funds to the campaign. The self-donations are part of his endorsement convention promise to raise $1 million to defeat Walz. Any money not generated by fundraising would be covered by his personal finances.
Even with Quist's significant self-funding, Walz massively out-raised Quist and Parry combined,
Quist could receive support from former presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann. She endorsed him this year, lending some of her political heft to the race. Quist and his wife Julie are long-time friends with Bachmann, but this is the first time she stepped up politically for him. She has been a guest speaker for a Quist fundraiser and brings the possibility that she could lend support against Walz.
Quist debuted the first TV ad of the campaign while running against Parry. Three more TV ads are planned, though details are not yet set.
Time may cushion some of the sting of Quist's past controversial actions. The majority of the gaffes occurred in the 1980s and Quist has generated very few new ones recently.
The Quist versus Walz race should be highly engaging, because they are skilled debaters. They have agreed to three public debates. The date and location of the debates is still pending.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at email@example.com)