FAIRMONT - Facing an August primary, Republican congressional candidate Al Quist is taking his message to town hall meetings across southern Minnesota.
Quist will face Mike Parry, a state senator from Waseca, in the Aug. 14 primary. The two men are trying to unseat Congressman Tim Walz, D-Minn.
Quist, who visited town Friday, will hold a town hall meeting at Heritage Acres in Fairmont at 7 p.m. July 12.
"I'm holding eight town hall meetings," Quist said. "I've got two down and six to go ... I encourage all questions; we don't screen them ahead of time or won't answer certain questions. If people make the effort to come see me, they should be able to ask. People so far have been happy with the town halls. I'm frank; I might disagree with you, but I'm always willing to listen."
And Quist hopes voters are listening, especially when it comes to his biggest concern: the national debt.
"We just shot our first TV commercial," he said. "In it, I'm holding my 18-month old granddaughter ... The next scene shows her climbing up these steps, that just happen to be red."
Much like the steps on the poster Quist carries with him just about everywhere these days to show how the national debt has ballooned in the past few decades.
"We're passing down this debt to our grandchildren, and to me that's unconscionable," Quist said. "... It's extraordinarily irresponsible. The interest will soon exceed all our defense spending in three years."
While Quist first has to get past Perry, he has plenty to say about Walz.
"To get out of debt, Walz says we have to spend more," Quist said. "He says we need to make wise investments, which is more spending, and we need to invest in infrastructure and science, whatever that is. I don't know how you'd define it ... I think that's Fantasyland. In 2011, 36 cents of every dollar spent was borrowed money. Again, this is extraordinarily irresponsible. We're five years from where Greece is, debt-to-GDP ratio, and we're rapidly closing in on that. Washington can't seem to deal with this, so we need new people."
Quist also had sharp words for the recent ruling on the health care bill, or "Obamacare."
"The Supreme Court just gave the election to the Republicans," he declared. "Since the ruling, Mitt Romney has received $4 million in contributions. That indicates that there's an activated public; they're no longer complacent and they're motivated to vote ... This decision, I believe, gives me the race. Walz has always been a staunch supporter of Obamacare along with massive spending. That makes him unelectable."
Quist does take some pride in the Supreme Court ruling calling the mandate to buy health insurance a tax.
"I've been saying that for years," Quist said. "For a married couple bringing in $60,000 a year, they would have to pay $10,425 additional in private insurance as opposed to not being married. National Public Radio did a fact check on this and said, 'Quist is correct.' The Heritage Foundation and a U.S. House research team have also declared my numbers were correct."
Quist said the marriage penalty amounts to a financial form of discrimination.
"If the Bush tax cuts end, then the marriage penalty with the IRS goes back into effect," he said. "I blew the whistle on that back in '99, and I identified the marriage penalty in Obamacare. I consider it a discrimination on married people. I don't think Washington has an issue with marriage, but it seems discriminatory against being married."
Quist, who identifies himself with the Tea Party movement, said the National Tea Party organization is telling its members to contact their representatives and ask them two things.
"The two things are, one, are they committed to repealing Obamacare, which I am," Quist said. "Second, are they committed to balancing the budget within the next five years, and I am."
Quist also believes the health care ruling will bring Republicans and Tea Party supporters back together.
"We have a common case now for repealing Obamacare," he said.