Last month, I spoke with a pair of candidates – Tom Bakk (Democrat) and Pat Anderson (Republican) – who hope to be Minnesota’s next governor. Blogs about those interviews can be found in the "Tales for the Chief" archives.
On Tuesday, I visited over the phone with Allen Quist, a Republican who hopes to unseat second-term Democratic Congressman Tim Walz next November. Walz won re-election by a fairly healthy margin in 2008, but is being portrayed by Republicans as increasingly vulnerable this year due to what the GOP says are unpopular Democratic policies.
Quist is not stranger to Minnesota politics. A former four-term state representative, he’s also a two time candidate for governor of the state. He last run for public office in 1998.
"I haven’t done anything politically for over 10 years, and had no intention of doing so," Quist told me over the phone Tuesday morning. "I came to the conclusion that the present Congress is leading the country in the wrong direction, and I decided that if I could make a difference, I would run.
"I have no personal need to go to Washington," Quist quickly added. "I have no need to be on stage and no need to be on cameras. This is purely an act of service for my country."
Quist declared his experience and ability to lead as his primary assets. He recalled being chief author of a bill while in the Minnesota House that created the state’s Department of Jobs and Training, which he said effectively retooled what had been MInnesota’s welfare department. He worked closely with Democratic governor Rudy Perpich, he said, noting: "I had the highest regard for him," while adding with a laugh, "not that I always agreed with him."
Quist said he plans to stress a record of leadership when he speaks with key Republican officials during the campaign. He pointed out that he speaks carefully and only when fully understanding of an issue – and that he does all his own research.
Quist cites "three big bills" as the primary failing points of the Democrat-led Congress right now.
"There’s a stimulus bill of $787 billion, which I believe is totally going in the wrong direction because it’s all red ink," he said. "It’s over $10,000 in new debt for every family of four in this country. That is unbelieveably bad policy to be able to do that."
According to the National Journal, Quist said, current trends in government spending project that the national debt will be 87 percent of the United States’ domestic product by 2020. Right now, it’s at 40 percent, "which I think is too high," Quist said.
The so-called "cap and trade" bill also compounds the problem, Quist stated. While the bill is intended to provide economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants (companies that need to increase their emission allowance must buy credits from those who pollute less), Quist believes the economic ramifications would be profoundly negative.
"There would be more unemplpoyment, not economic vitality … it would be a terrible spiral," he said. "You take that capital out of the economy and it’s not there for economic activity. I think that’s just Economics 101."
Lastly, the health care reform proposal being advanced by Democratic leadership would be economically cripping, Quist explained.
"The answer to our problems is not to have the federal government take over – look at GM, Government Motors," he said. "This would add a trillion dollars in new costs. … It’s a huge burden on the economy."
Quist added that on Thursday, he plans to issue a press release identfying "a huge defect in the (health care reform) bill that nobody has identified so far; I don’t know why anyone hasn’t identified it." I will be interested to see what Quist’s revelation is, and if it in fact does cause some new wrinkle in debate of the bill. If there is something substantial here, one has to believe Quist will have an early inside track – and let’s stress that it’s still early – on his party’s nod for running against Walz.