The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 5, 2012

Campaign Notebook: Quist, Walz compete with ‘Twins of Evil’

By Mark Fischenich
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — If you’re torn between attending the Tim Walz-Allen Quist debate Tuesday night at Minnesota State University or the Rob Zombie-Marilyn Manson concert the same evening at the civic center, take heart.

While both the 1st Congressional District debate and the “Twins of Evil Tour” concert start at 7 p.m., there’s an excellent chance debate-goers — if they sneak out at the closing statements — could still experience the end of the Zombie performance and catch a tune or two from his current “Mondo Sex Head” album. And they’d get all of the Manson concert.

It’s hard to say which event will have more pyrotechnics, based on the previous debate between the Democratic Walz, a three-term incumbent from Mankato, and Republican challenger Quist, a retired St. Peter farmer.

The two candidates aggressively went after each other several times during the 90-minute debate in Byron. And it’s possible Quist, who appears to have some ground to make up before Nov. 6, will be looking to crank up the volume even more on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Debate Minnesota and moderated by Gary Eichten, the Walz-Quist forum is in Ostrander Auditorium in MSU’s student union. It’s free and open to the public, and previous 1st District debates in Mankato have drawn large crowds.

Sponsored by The Prince of Darkness (OK, we’re just speculating there), the Manson-Zombie concert will cost $45 for general admission tickets purchased on Tuesday. The doors to the civic center open at 6 p.m.

Third debate dropped

Quist probably wishes there was one other similarity between the 1st District debate schedule and the “Twins of Evil Tour.” Zombie and Manson are teaming up 38 nights. Quist gets only three one-on-one face-offs with the incumbent he’s hoping to topple.

And the three-debate series is really more like two and a sixth in Quist’s view. After challenging the Republican primary election winner to three 90-minute debates, Walz reneged and scheduled only two of that length and a third 15-minute encounter on KSTP-TV.

Those who missed the KSTP “At Issue” mini-debate hosted by Tom Hauser last Sunday, it will be rebroadcast on KAAL — the ABC station out of Austin — this Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.

In any case, Tuesday’s showdown in Mankato will be the finale of the 1st District debate season.

Not close?

Walz went into his third re-election bid as a member of a small list of incumbents that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee considered most likely to face strong challenges by the Republican Party. The group was singled out for special assistance from the national party, but the DCCC has apparently changed its mind about Walz’s vulnerability, Minnesota Public Radio reported this week.

The DCCC has pulled back $260,000 in scheduled broadcast ads aimed at helping Walz win a fourth term, according to MPR. The ads originally were planned to run later this month.

If Quist is going to pull off the upset victory he’s been promising, some hints of progress will probably need to show up soon. While no 1st District polls have been publicized, the absence of investment in the race by the national parties or affiliated groups, and the lack of political celebrities visiting southern Minnesota, suggests that internal polling shows a safe lead for Walz.

Compare this year’s race to Walz’s 2006 upset of 12-year incumbent Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht. At this point six years ago, Walz was announcing that his fundraising was approaching $850,000 — far more than any other Gutknecht opponent had raised.

By early October, then-House Majority Leader (current House Speaker) John Boehner had announced that he was coming to Mankato to campaign with Gutknecht, and Newt Gingrich had already held an event in Rochester with the incumbent.

U.S. Sen. Max Cleland was set for a North Mankato visit on behalf of Walz. A union-sponsored poll had been leaked to a liberal website allegedly showing Walz had taken the lead in the race. And an independent poll of more than 1,000 southern Minnesotans was underway. When results were released a few days later, it showed Gutknecht clinging to a 48 percent to 47 percent lead.

NRA for Walz

A quick quiz. What do Mitt Romney, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Walz have in common? The National Rifle Association is urging voters to support that trio over their opponents.

The NRA’s political arm announced this week that it is once again endorsing Walz, citing his pro-gun-rights voting record.

“The choice for gun owners in this election is clear,” said the NRA’s Chris Cox in a written statement. “Tim Walz will protect our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.”