By Mark Fischenich
The Free Press
A consistent theme for congressional candidate Allen Quist during his 1st District campaigns the past four years was that, all things considered, he'd rather be fishing. But, Quist said, his deep concerns about the skyrocketing federal debt forced him to try to make a difference.
On Friday, Quist announced that he was running for an open seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives. And the 68-year-old conceded that typical retirement activities just aren't as intriguing to him as campaigning and policy-making.
"I'm not interested in spending my life on a golf course," the retired farmer and former Bethany Lutheran College instructor said. "... Obviously, I'm very interested in politics and government."
So Quist will be back in Mankato Thursday night, trying to win a Republican endorsing convention against Veterans Services Officer Jim Golgart of St. Peter, a little more than eight months after Quist was one of the contenders in a legendary battle for the GOP endorsement to run against Democratic Congressman Tim Walz. In that April contest between Quist and state Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca, delegates deadlocked over nearly 14 hours and 23 rounds of balloting.
Quist went on to defeat Parry in an August primary election before falling to Walz in the general election.
This time, it's a seat in the Legislature rather than in Congress that's at stake, the pre-convention campaign is a matter of days rather than months, and there's no incumbent Democratic lawmaker awaiting the winner. The House District 19A seat, which covers Nicollet County along with several neighborhoods on Mankato's western and northern sides, will be vacant with the resignation next week of St. Peter Democratic Rep. Terry Morrow.
Three Democrats, none of whom have been elected to public office, are running for their party's endorsement.
One thing will be constant between the Republican conventions -- a fraction of the delegates who will do the endorsing. Quist and Parry were actively trying to get their supporters elected during precinct caucuses last February, and some of those Quist supporters were elected to the county level and will be making the decision Thursday night at the endorsing convention in Mankato Place.
He estimated about 10 percent of the 100-plus delegates Thursday will be supporters who were also elected to the 1st District convention last April. A much larger number will be people he's worked with in previous campaigns for state House in the 1980s -- where he won three and lost two -- and for governor in the 1990s.
"The endorsement, I'm quite optimistic, partly because I'm pretty well known," Quist said.
His high name recognition would also be a big advantage, he said, in the yet-to-be-scheduled special election. On the flip side, there's a certain degree of notoriety surrounding Quist, who was heavily involved in social issues during his legislative career, including leading efforts to crack down on anonymous gay sex. Quist is also deeply conservative -- he characterized himself as "a far-right conservative" during the April endorsing convention -- running in a legislative district that leans Democratic.
As to his motivation for running for a much lower profile seat than he'd sought in his gubernatorial and congressional runs, Quist said he wants to be a voice in St. Paul for agriculture and small business owners and to play a role in establishing any new K-12 education standards that might be passed by the Democratic-controlled state government.
"My bottom line is to be a good-government guy," he said.