ST PETER — The “genetic predisposition” comment has stuck to Allen Quist like the world’s most relentless leech through two campaigns for governor and pair of attempts, including this year’s, for a seat in Congress.
The story about Quist conducting an undercover investigation into gay sex allegedly occurring at a Mankato adult bookstore has been with him even longer.
His 1988 statement that Minnesota State University’s acceptance of a gay/lesbian center in its student union was equivalent to allowing a Ku Klux Klan office there ... . That one hasn’t been as persistent, but it’s made an appearance this year.
The retired farmer from rural St. Peter has been attempting to quash efforts to resurrect the controversial remarks and actions, telling people reports of his actions were “a total fabrication” and that his comments were taken out of context.
State Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca — Quist’s opponent in the upcoming Republican primary election — decided to highlight Quist’s history this week, turning an already contentious race even more negative.
“I think it’s time for him to man up and face the music,” Parry said.
The Free Press dug through newspaper archives and old files from Quist’s previous runs for office to provide some of the context Quist said is missing from present-day accounts of his legislative and campaign history.
Parry was also quizzed about some questionable comments of his own, which some viewed as racist and homophobic. (See accompanying story).
The winner of the Parry-Quist Republican primary election on Aug. 14 will advance to the Nov. 6 general election against Democratic Congressman Tim Walz of Mankato. But it seems increasingly likely that the winner will be at least somewhat bloodied going into the fall.
Quist has about five times as much money to spend in the final 19 days of the primary campaign. But Parry said it’s not desperation that’s prompting him to shine a spotlight on his opponent’s actions during six years in the state House and his controversial comments — leading up to his 1994 attempt to topple Gov. Arne Carlson, a fellow Republican — about whether men have an innate propensity to be the ultimate decision-maker in families.
Democrats won’t hesitate to do the same this fall if Quist is their opponent, said Parry, who has repeatedly noted that Quist hasn’t won an election in more than 20 years.
“I think it’s because of those statements and his actions,” Parry said of Quist’s failure to prevail in any of his past five runs for office. “I think that’s what will happen should he be the candidate (against Walz).”
Quist responded with an email to supporters, encouraging them to rally around his campaign in face of the negative attacks — which he portrayed as a last-ditch attempt by Parry to stem the Quist campaign’s momentum.
“You can tell how successful we’ve been by the shrill negative attacks from my opponent,” Quist wrote. “Nothing positive is coming from him — no issues, no leadership, no direction. Just negative attacks. And every negative attack is either downright false or taken completely out of context.”
Quist has more than once in recent weeks called the story about his visit to Mankato’s adult bookstore a lie.
“That’s a total fabrication,” Quist said on July 15 to the hosts of a Twin Cities radio talk show, who took him at his word and moved on to other topics.
But in March of 1988, Quist wasn’t only publicly talking about his incognito visit to the “Adult Book and Cinema” store on what was then North Front Street.
Quist, a three-term state lawmaker who was well-known for leading the House Republican effort to combat the spread of AIDS, told The Free Press that he found evidence that the store was set up to promote anonymous homosexual sex and should be shut down by the Minnesota Department of Health.
From the March 30, 1988 Free Press: “Quist said he recently visited the bookstore disguised in sunglasses and grubby clothes. The store’s darkened rear area contains coin-operated film booths, he found.
“‘On the north end of these booths there’s a section marked off for homosexuals,’ Quist said. ‘If you open a door, you’ll find there are apertures in the partitions. They are there to facilitate anonymous sodomy.’
“He also said he found direct evidence of sexual activity on the floors of the booths. ‘I was ready to vomit before I left there,’ Quist added.”
His findings were part of the justification for an amendment he successfully added to a Minnesota Department of Health budget bill that ordered the agency to “prevent any business from facilitating sexual practices that transmit deadly diseases.”
The Ku Klux Klan
The Parry campaign is publicizing excepts from a 1994 Star Tribune story about Quist, including that he “alleged that Mankato State University was encouraging the spread of AIDS by sponsoring a counseling center for gays, comparing it to a center for the Ku Klux Klan.”
The Star Tribune was apparently referencing a Jan. 11, 1988 story in The Free Press headlined “Quist: MSU center promoting sodomy.”
The story covered Quist’s comments at an issues forum sponsored by the Phi Delta Kappa educators association where part of his message was that “educational institutions have to make a concerted effort to stop the spread of sodomy” and that he would “look very closely” at MSU’s Alternative Lifestyle center.
Margaret Preska, then president of MSU, compared the center to programs serving minorities and women and was aimed at making “high quality information available” to gay and lesbian students.
Quist thought the center provided tacit encouragement for gay sex.
From the story: “... It’s presence suggests university approval for the homosexual lifestyle and the practice of sodomy, he said. ‘You wouldn’t have a center for the Ku Klux Klan,’ Quist added, implying that both groups espouse philosophies repugnant to mainstream America.”
The Free Press had a follow-up story on Jan. 16, 1988, after Quist discussed the Alternative Lifestyle center with MSU officials. Quist said he was not persuaded and — while he wouldn’t try to legislate the center’s closing — he hoped to stir up public pressure to close the office, according to the story.
Quist’s thoughts on the roles of husbands and wives in family decision-making have been summarized by media, and his political opponents have created an even more abbreviated shorthand-version of what he’s said. Quist claims the original context has been completely lost.
He told the talk radio hosts that he was just explaining traditional Christian doctrine.
“What I was being asked about there is: historically, what’s the position, then, of the Christian church? Then I’m taken totally out of context,” Quist told “The Late Debate with Jack and Ben.”
The issue first arose with an April 6, 1994 article in the Twin Cities Reader, done in a question-and-answer format by David Brauer.
To provide context, here’s the part of the story — in its entirety — related to the roles of husbands and wives:
(Brauer): “You once criticized a local community education program because it ‘undermines the natural order of the husband being the head of the wife. It assumes that the husband and the wife have the same rights and responsibilities.’ Do you believe the wife has less rights?”
(Quist): “I believe that before the law, the husband and the wife are exactly equal. But I think that you have a political arrangement in marriage, similar to any other political arrangement. And when push comes to shove, the higher level of political authority normally — I think there are exceptions — should be in the hands of the husband.”
(Quist): “I think there’s a genetic predisposition.”
(Brauer): “Not a biblical one?”
(Quist): “I don’t know about that. That’s not where I’m coming from.”