Fewer than one in every ten Minnesota voters went to the polls in Tuesday's primary, according to preliminary estimates from the Secretary of State's office.
About 9 percent of eligible voters showed up. That compares to the approximately 16 percent that turned out in the primary two years ago, the first year Minnesota held its primary in August rather than September.
Unlike the 2010 primary, which posted turnout numbers that were about average, this year's primary had no high-profile statewide contest. In 2010, Democrats sorted out which candidate for governor to advance to November.
The 2012 turnout varied widely across the state.
About 70,000 voters in the northern Eighth Congressional District showed up on Tuesday, most on the Democratic side of the ledger. They were charged with picking which DFLer should face Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack. They picked former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan.
Meanwhile, down in the southern First Congressional District just under 40,000 voters cast ballots, about 23,000 of them voting in the GOP primary. Republicans picked former state lawmaker Allen Quist to face U.S. Rep. Tim Walz Tuesday.
The turnout results are also below 2008 figures, when there was a U.S. Senate race on the ballot. In that year about 11 percent of eligible voters turned out.
But they are above 2004, when there was no statewide race on the ballot. That year, fewer than eight percent of voters went to the polls.
See historic primary turnout figures below:
The press wanted a word with Mike Parry.
The word they got was "unavailable."
The First District congressional candidate was back at the Capitol Thursday to helm aSenate hearing into a new tentative contract deal between the state and its largest employee unions. Instead, he faced questions -- first from Senate Democrats, then from reporters -- about how he's conducting his campaign.
Just days before, the second-term Republican from Waseca claimed he'd witnessed Gov. Mark Dayton popping "15 or 16" pills during a meeting. The claim sparked a spirited denial from Dayton and harsh criticism of Parry from other quarters.
During the hearing, DFL committee members questioned whether he'd called the hearing as a pre-election stunt to grab headlines. He faces former lawmaker Allen Quist in a contested GOP primary next Tuesday. The winner will challenge incumbent Democratic Rep. Tim Walz in November.
Asked about the charges after the hearing, Parry said: "Excuse me, if you want to talk about the [congressional] race, then we'll go outside and talk about it."
When? Reporters wanted to know. Fifteen minutes. Where? The lawn outside the Capitol.
Fifteen minutes came and went. Then another 15 minutes. Finally, a sheepish GOP staffer emerged to announce that Parry would be "unavailable."
This isn't the first time Parry has evaded the Capitol press corps.Last March, he pulled Senate President MIchelle Fischbach away from reporters and closed an office door in their faces. It isn't even the first time today that he walked away from a stressful situation. During the hearing, Parry called an abrupt recess when the large crowd of union supporters in the room snickered when DFL senators questioned his motives.
"I let the sparring go maybe a little bit too long between the representatives," Parry told reporters afterward, when asked about the recess. "I just felt it was time just to slow it down and the best way to do that is to call a recess, let everyone just cool down."
Congressional candidate Mike Parry is sticking by his claim that he witnessed the governor of Minnesota popping handfuls of pills during a breakfast meeting.
Mike Parry, one of two Republicans vying in the First District congressional primary, was caught on video Monday evening claiming that he'd seen Gov. Mark Dayton swallow "15 or 16 pills," and said it would be "scary" if the governor oversaw a DFL-majority legislature after November.
Parry offered no evidence to support his claim.
The governor pushed back hard Tuesday, calling Parry's remarks "a lie" and the "worst form of gutter politics" by a politician who's about to lose an election.
The two converged at Farmfest Tuesday, where Parry, a state senator from Waseca, was participating in a morning candidate forum and Dayton was the afternoon's keynote speaker.
Despite calls for an apology, Parry stuck by his remarks.
Maybe it wasn't 15 or 16 pills, he conceded, but "it was more than just a few" and "they weren't M&M peanuts, which he seems like." He could not recall the date of the alleged incident. He said the pills were sitting on the table while the two of them were having breakfast.
"I was there. I saw it," Parry told reporters after the candidate forum. "I saw it. I said it. I was there."
He stopped short of saying outright that he thought the governor of Minnesota was a drug addict.
"I have all the sympathy in the world for people that have issues like that," he said. "What I was speaking about was that it would be very scary, very scary if our governor ended up with a House and a Senate that was controlled by one party. I truly believe that this state, in my mind, would turn into one of the most socialistic states in the nation."
Dayton, who says he takes medication for depression, said he doesn't expect an apology for the pill remark, but he'd like one for another claim Parry made at the Monday fundraiser -- that he'd cut services to veterans. Parry also declined to make that apology.
Asked whether he thought the governor is fit to lead, Parry -- who once suggested the governor should resign over last year's government shutdown -- said: "I never said he was, I never said he wasn't."
A little Googling, using of Nexis, digging into archives and searches through microfilm are roiling the First Congressional District Republican primary race.
Both Republican Mike Parry and Allen Quist, who are vying in a primary for the right to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, have made current their rival's past statements.
Parry, a state Senator from Waseca, got it started by reminding that when Quist was in the state Legislature decades ago he won some attention for: investigating a porn shop undercover to check for gay sex hang-outs; comparing counseling for gays to the Ku Klux Klan and for saying that men have a genetic predisposition to the head of households.
Quist, in various forums and in various ways, denied the charges.
But late Thursday, the former state representative admitted there was some truth to them, sort of.
In an email to supporters he said that indeed he did visit an adult book store to investigate the goings on but not in disguise -- and besides, he says not, he was right to do so.
"I entered the adult bookstore dressed normally in shirt and blue jeans. The real story that won’t be printed is that I did the right thing. There was in fact a huge public health risk involved—a problem that was immediately remedied because someone had the courage to bring the issue to the light of day," he told supporters.
He also said that yes, he did compare counseling to the KKK although he doesn't remember it, and now says it was wrong to do so.
"I have no memory of having said anything like that, but apparently I did. In light of that evidence I now offer my apologies. The words were poorly chosen. I would not say anything like that today. How many of us can remember all that we may have said 24 years ago? The Parry campaign had to dig pretty deep and pretty far back to find something to attack. But those attacks are a shallow substitute for addressing the serious issues facing our nation," he wrote.
He also said that his statement about men's roles from years ago was about religion.
"I believe there is natural order to the family that is part of the genetic code. This negative attack is being taken out of context because I was speaking of religious beliefs, not public policy—beliefs that have no part in political campaigns or political discourse. In addition, I was not speaking of what the Bible says directly, but was speaking of inferences based on the Bible, inferences that others may not agree with," he wrote.
That still conflicts with what he told a reporter two decades ago. In 1994, he said was asked if his discussion about men's "a genetic predisposition" was "a biblical one.” He said: “I don’t know about that. That’s not where I’m coming from.”
But Quist says Parry also has a questionable past -- and present.
"Three years ago, Mike Parry put Democrats and pedophiles in the same category. He also said President Obama was a “Power Hungry Arrogant Black Man," he said.
He earlier hit back against Parry's brickbat over Quist personal financing of his own campaign by suggesting Parry would do the same, if only he could: "He says he’s a businessman, but either he’s not successful, or he’s unwilling to invest some of his success in this effort.”
Parry admitted that on Twitter just before he was elected to the state Senate, he made some inappropriate comments.
“I stood up, I apologized, said I was sorry, it wasn’t going to happen again and I moved on," Parry said. "You’ve got to be responsible about what you do.”
Parry also said that his business has struggled but he has worked hard to keep it afloat.
A Republican state senator wants Democratic state officials to explain their work regarding the ballot questions voters will see in November.
Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, who is also a candidate for Congress in the 1st Congressional District, called a meeting of the Senate Government Innovation and Veterans Committee, which he chairs, for Friday.
"In light of recent developments, the committee expects Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and State Attorney General Lori Swanson to explain their involvement surrounding the constitutional ballot questions on the November ballot," read a statement from Parry.
Ritchie has given titles to the two ballot questions -- one prohibiting gay marriage and the other requiring photo ID for voters -- that differ from titles approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Republicans have objected that he did so to make them harder to pass in the November election.
The marriage amendment was originally titled by the Legislature as "Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman." Ritchie has titled the amendment "Limiting the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples." Gay marriage foes have gone to court to challenge Ritchie's proposed language.
The voting amendment was originally titled "Photo Identification Required for Voting." Ritchie determined it will be titled "Changes to In-Person & Absentee Voting & Voter Registration; Provisional Ballots."
Ritchie has said he consulted Swanson and determined that the Secretary of State, not the Legislature, has the authority to determine the titles of ballot questions. Both Ritchie and Swanson are DFLers.
A spokesman for the Senate Republican Caucus said Parry is interested in exploring political activities that Ritchie and Swanson may have engaged in regarding the ballot questions.
The committee meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. in Room 123 of the state Capitol.