ST. PETER - Allen Quist officially announced Friday he was jumping into the Minnesota House 19A race. He is the second Republican to officially announce a run for the Republican endorsement.
A long-time farmer, Quist served three terms in the Minnesota Legislature in the 1980s. He went on to several unsuccessful runs for higher office, including running for governor in 1994 and 1998 and running for Minnesota's First Congressional District seat in 2010 and 2012.
His platform will focus on small business and agriculture in southern Minnesota. He said he opposes tax increase as a solution and believes regulations reform could have big benefit for the district and region. He said a four-lane expansion of Hwy 14 would be important in many of his proposals, but would not be a main platform focus.
"The irony of it is I was working on trying to get Hwy 14 funded back in the 1980s," said Quist.
He declined to say how he would vote on a gas tax increase, but said a fully funded state transportation system is essential to his small business and agriculture focus.
Quist said he will also focus on the state's welfare programs and the state's education standards.
19A Republicans will hold endorsement convention Jan. 10
ST. PETER - The Nicollet County Republican Party has scheduled an endorsement convention for Republican candidates in the 19A special election race for next Thursday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m.
The convention will follow traditional endorsement convention procedures and is open the public. There are 160 delegates and alternates in the Republican's 19A district, which will consist of approximately 120 primary delegates.
So far, the only two announced Republican candidates, Allen Quist and Jim Golgart, have said they would abide by the convention's decision. Republican leaders in the first district have indicated they expect the two candidates to be the only ones seeking endorsement.
Nicollet County Republican co-chair Carol Stevenson said the early date of the endorsement convention is intended to determine a Republican candidate as early as possible and give them the maximum campaign time, given the short time frame the special election will occur in.
The special election is being held because Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL-St. Peter) announced he would resign to take job in Chicago. Gov. Mark Dayton has not yet announced an official date the election will take place, but he will have to hold it within 40 days of Morrow's "official" resignation day on Tuesday, Jan. 7.
The DFL Party and Independence Party in 19A have not yet announced an endorsement convention date.
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On welfare, Quist said he is well-versed on the state welfare program due to his legislative years. He touted being the chief author of the bill that created the Minnesota Department of Jobs and Training, which he said was big for getting people off welfare and allow them to be self-sufficient.
He said the state's food stamp program was his biggest concern and his first priority would be to make married and unmarried couples receive the exact same amount of benefits. He also said the current state program allowed people up to 166 percent of the poverty level to receive foods stamps. He said serious overhauls of the program would work it more reasonable and sustainable. But, he said federal regulations may have tied the hands of what the state can do.
For the state's education standards, Quist touted his successful work repealing the Profiles of Learning education policy. In his announcement, he said he won the support of Education Minnesota, the largest union and public education advocacy group in Minnesota, over his work on the repeal.
Education Minnesota responded to Quist's claim Friday, stating they had supported the repeal but not Quist or his Maple River Education Coalition group's reason for it. Education Minnesota said they based their actions on teacher concerns while Quist wanted the unproven North Star Standard implemented.
"It's puzzling at this point why Mr. Quist would attempt to align himself with Minnesota's educators when his views and his record have historically been opposed to what educators and students need, " said Doug Dooher, spokesperson for Education Minnesota.
Quist said he should have said Education Minnesota joined the effort to repeal the Profiles of Learning and he was the prime mover behind the effort.
He said his repeal work was relevant given his concerns about new proposed state civic standards. He said he was concerned those did not seem to emphasize the "inalienable rights" laid out in the U.S. Constitution, echoing criticism laid out in December by Minnesota House Republicans. Quist said his final judgment on the standards is still pending further review and he may find the standards acceptable.
Quist said he had no interest in pushing any social issues this campaign. He said he wants to entirely focus on his legislative experience and his record of being a bi-partisan worker in the Legislature. This push may be a tough sell for Quist, who will have to contend with his record of controversial statements. In his 2010 congressional run, Quist said defeating Democrats and President Obama was more important than fighting terrorism and he compared an MSU-Mankato counseling center for gay students to KKK during his legislative years in the 1980s.
Quist said he fully recognizes the district is much more challenging and DFL leaning after redistricting. He said he will push on regardless of the challenge.
The district carries a large college student population due to Gustavus College, which is a demographic that Quist attributed his defeat in last year's election.
Quist said the presence of Independence Party candidates in the race is a "wild card," but he said he thinks he'll be minimally impacted by it.
Quist admitted it was unusual that he was running for state office again. He said he had thought he would retire after last year's unsuccessful congressional race, but found he could not spend retirement simply doing something like golfing.
In a December 2009 interview with the Minnesota Independent, Quist said he wasn't well-suited to bring the specific needs of a legislative district over statewide issues and that he was "never that interested in parochial issues, in bringing home the bacon." Quist said he is now running for legislative office because he wants to have an impact on local issues that are important to him. He said his concern for the future motivated him to run.
Regarding the endorsement convention, Quist said his name recognition would allow the state party to save time and money on introducing him.
He said he would abide by the Republican endorsement if all other Republicans candidates also agreed to it.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.