GOP can’t settle on Walz challenger after 23 votes

Published 11:36 am Monday, April 23, 2012

Local Republicans say the contest between state Sen. Mike Parry, of Waseca, and former state Rep. Allen Quist, of St. Peter, will continue after neither candidate captured Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District’s endorsement over the weekend.

Neither Parry nor Quist gained the required 60 percent of delegates after 14 hours and 23 rounds of balloting that ended just before 2 a.m. Sunday. Quist had 137 votes on the last ballot to 126 for Parry with 19 blank ballots. Parry led in the early rounds of voting Saturday before Quist pulled ahead for a couple rounds. Then the lead swung back to Parry, then to Quist. Quist still had the lead when the convention adjourned.

As the exhausted delegates headed for the doors, both candidates said they would have been happy to keep going. But Kato Ballroom Manager Larry Bowers told media that city liquor ordinances required him to shut down at 2 a.m., even though he wasn’t serving liquor.

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“I can’t afford to lose my liquor license,” Bowers said. “… My bosses would fire me.”

The vote to reconvene later was 131-108, down from 282 delegates present when the convention began more than 17 hours earlier. The district central committee will meet in two to three weeks to set a date.

A motion to forego endorsing candidate and leave it up to primary voters failed.

Though Mower County GOP chairman Dennis Schminke acknowledged the deadlock was a tough situation, he said the district will most likely have the nomination wrapped up within a month.

“The important thing is that we focus on Tim Walz,” Schminke said.

Schminke was at the convention as his wife was one of 12 Mower County delegates. He said 1st District GOP members are expected to reconvene in two to three weeks, at the earliest possible time.

“What you have is two very closely matched candidates,” Schminke said.

Longtime party activist Steve Perkins, of Luverne, said the 1st District’s old record for ballots was 18 rounds in 1974, when delegates finally endorsed Tom Hagedorn over Arlen Erdahl.

Quist, who served three terms in the Minnesota House, lost the Republican endorsement for the congressional seat in 2010 to Randy Demmer. He also made two unsuccessful runs for governor in 1994 and 1998. Parry, who is one of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s staunchest critics in the Legislature, won his seat in a special election in January 2010 and was re-elected that November.

In the 4th District, which includes St. Paul, businessman Tony Hernandez won the GOP endorsement to challenge incumbent Democrat Betty McCollum. Hernandez secured the party’s backing on the first ballot in a three-way contest with Ron Seiford and Gene Rechtzigel at a convention in Vadnais Heights, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.