— Southern Minnesotans who keep an eye on politics probably figure they’ve got a fairly good understanding of Allen Quist. After all, the retired St. Peter farmer and former Bethany Lutheran College professor has twice run for governor and twice for Congress in the past 20 years.
But many eligible voters have never heard the conservative Republican make his pitch for a seat in the Minnesota Legislature. Some eligible voters in Tuesday’s special election to fill the House District 19A seat — the vast majority of Gustavus Adolphus College students, for instance — hadn’t been born the last time Quist ran for a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives. And no voter under the age of 44 has cast a ballot for him when he last won a seat in the Legislature.
It’s a surprise to Quist himself to be running for the state House, the body he was first elected to in 1982. He was re-elected in 1984 and 1986, lost to Gustavus professor Don Ostrom in 1988, lost a rematch in 1990 and then set his sights on higher offices.
“I never would have predicted it,” Quist said of his current legislative run, a campaign that began fewer than two months after he lost a congressional contest to Rep. Tim Walz. “I thought I was retired after the November election. I told a number of people it would take something totally unforeseen for me to be a candidate again. And it has.”
The surprise resignation of Democratic Rep. Terry Morrow of St. Peter was the unforeseen incident that got Quist thinking about the state House.
Last year his focus was almost totally on Washington, D.C., and the federal debt, something he said concerned him so much he’d decided to postpone a comfortable retirement. Leading up to the Nov. 6 election, he was hopeful the already Republican-controlled U.S. House would be reinforced with enough similarly conservative new members to drive dramatic reductions in spending and the elimination of the federal deficit in six years or fewer.