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Allen Quist:
Followers Could Have Impact at Convention
By Karen Louise Boothe
June 17, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4


Republicans expect to unite behind a gubernatorial candidate this Friday at the party's state convention in Minneapolis. St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, Lieutenant Governor Joanne Benson, Waverly businessman Dick Borrell and former State Representative Allen Quist are all vying for endorsement.

THIS IS ALLEN QUIST'S SECOND TRY for the office of governor. He was the party's choice in 1994, but his landslide loss to Governor Carlson in the primary knocked him out of the race. He says this year is more favorable for him.

Quist: Four years ago I was running against an incumbent within my own party. This time we've got an open race and open seats; the people are going to have the same amount of money because of finance laws (which I think is very positive - we were outspent 3-to-1 by Governor Carlson last time). And the way you win primaries is by spending money, identifying your voters, and getting them to the polls - it's mechanics. So we feel that it's a totally different situation, and with an open seat that we're very confident that we can do very well; we're very confident that we can win this.
Quist is distancing himself from his platform of conservative moral issues on which he ran in '94 - a platform that turned off mainstream voters. He's careful not to repeat his contention that women are genetically predisposed to following men's authority. He talks less about abortion, and the buzz term "family values" is mentioned less.

This year, he has made education his campaign cornerstone. But earlier this week, he picked his running mate. Dan Williams is an African-American businessman and urban minister who passes the litmus test on two social issues Quist and his supporters look for. He opposes legal abortion and civil rights for gays and lesbians.

A recent poll conducted by Minnesota Public Radio, KARE-11, and the Pioneer Press showed that only 13 percent of likely primary voters would choose Quist. Even a straw poll among delegates last month showed that Quist and Benson have about 30 percent of the vote compared with Norm Coleman's 40 percent. Quist pays no attention to polls.
Quist: Well, the way to win elections is not by opinion polls, and I think that Bob Dole proved that for us, I think George Bush proved that for us, and I think a lot of other candidates have proven that.
Quist is unlikely to win the party endorsement, but he doesn't have high praise for either of his more formidable opponents. Quist says Benson has mis-represented her record on abortion politics. He's criticized Benson's work on a compromise agreement over an abortion bill while she was a state senator in 1994. As for Coleman, Quist says he's an "enigma" without a voting record to analyze.

What Quist thinks can make a difference. He maintains a faithful following that could swing the outcome for Norm Coleman and Joanne Benson. Just which campaign he'll try to shepherd his supporters to is unknown.
Coleman: We don't have any plans for that, at the same time, conventions have a life of their own and we have to seriously evaluate every situation. So I don't know what's going to happen, I don't know what we'll do. But we don't have any backup plan; our plan is to be the endorsed ticket.
Republican analyst Sara Janacek downplays Quist's swaying power at the convention.
Janacek: Well, I tell you, I think that Allen was in a lot better position in the last ten years and in 1994 - up through 1994 - to really convince some of the lieutenants in his campaign on what to do. I think that's a much different situation now, given his overwhelming loss to Carlson in the '94 primary. And, I think, you know, frankly, some of the people that are supporting Allen Quist would like to win a campaign every now and then! And so I think that those folks will be somewhat valuable and out of Allen's control over what they really want to do. I really don't believe that Allen Quist walks into this convention this year with as much clout as he has in the past.
Further, she predicts he'll be out of the contest early on in the balloting process leaving the fight to Coleman and Benson.
Janacek: If Coleman comes in at about 10 percent at the first ballot, I think that he will have the momentum and it will be a quick three, four-ballot deal. If Joanne has a good showing against Coleman it's going to be a long bitter feud.
This year, delegates will not only be considering which candidate has the most conservative credentials, they'll be looking for the most electable candidate who is best able to defeat any one of the six DFLers competing in the primary.