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GOP hardliner Sen. Mike Parry not afraid to tweet what he believes

Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, claims he has two “tweet” advisers who “tone me down.”

It’s hard to imagine what the un-toned Parry might tweet.

In one of his latest messages to the tweet world, Parry had this to say regarding the “third way” committee formed by former Gov. Arne Carlson and former Vice President Walter Mondale: “With all due respect, Mondale and Carlson need to stay in their rockers unless they can get Dayton to do the right thing. … RESIGN!”

Was that vetted by his tweet editors, who include his spouse, Kathy, and an unnamed “editor.” (The unnamed editor apparently is a member of the Republican Senate caucus, or someone who works close to the caucus.)  

He says his tweets contain ‘a lot of humor’
“It got their approval,” said Parry. “What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that there’s a lot of humor in the things I send out.”


Sen. Mike Parry
Sen. Mike Parry

“That last one [the Mondale-Carlson tweet], there’s humor in it. At our ages, we all have rockers. I have grand-kids. There’s nothing I’d like more than to sit back in my rocker and watch people I employ do their work.”

That seems unlikely.

Few state pols seem to enjoy the limelight so much as Parry, 58, who is in his second term after winning two elections in 2010. First, he won a special election in January of last year, filling the seat of former Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, who resigned to become a full-time lobbyist on behalf of racinos interest. He won again in November.

It’s hard to say whether his victories have come in spite of, or because of, his tweets that at times have brought him national attention.

His most memorable tweet — and his efforts to erase it — came before his special-election victory. His description of President Obama went like this: “Power hungry, arrogant black man.”

That one brought him national attention. After trying to ignore the outcries that the tweet was racist, Parry came up with an unapologetic defense of the message.

President Obama
President Obama

“My opinion is that our President is arrogant and angry,” he told reporters. “The fact is, he’s a black man. Now if the Democratic Party and the liberals want to take my opinion and the fact and mix it together … they’re grasping at straws.”

Those who bristle at his tweets are bound by political correctness, Parry says. He presents himself as a guy tough enough to stand up to the liberal critics and say what he thinks.

“The reason we have the problems we have today is that people don’t say what they think,” said Parry in an interview last week. “All they do is beat about the bush.”

Not Parry.

He talked about his days as a football player for the Albert Lea High squads of 1970 and 1971.

“I was a 165-pound guard who was not afraid of that 300-pound tackle in front of me,” he said. “I’d just go after him.”

That’s what he thinks he’s doing these days. He’s going after those mighty supporters of big government.

In the once decorum-laden state Senate, Parry is the personification of the new, aggressive Republican Party. He sometimes makes faces when DFLers stand up to speak. (Sen. John Marty speeches especially seem to get Parry’s face a-twitching.)

Gov. Mark Dayton
MinnPost/James Nord
Gov. Mark Dayton

He stormed out of a late-session meeting that the entire Republican caucus had with Dayton. Whenever Republican leaders have a group of their caucus members standing with them at a news event, Parry is sure to be where his jut-jawed visage will get television time.

Of late, he has been tweeting that Dayton should resign and be replaced by “the honorable Yvonne Prettner Solon.”

Parry says Gov. Dayton lied
And just why should the governor resign?

“He lied,” said Parry.

About what?

“During the campaign, he said he would not shut down government,” he said. “Our governor lied to us. My dad, who fought in World War II and the Korean War, always told me, ‘If you say you’re going to do something, you’d better do it.’ I believe those words.”

He also believes in the words his grandfather once told him: “Sometimes you need a 2 x 4 to get the other guy’s attention.”

And he also believes in the verities of the rural world he grew up in.

“The handshake is what mattered when you were a farmer,” he said. “Your word was all that mattered. People looked each other in the eye, they helped each other.”

Interestingly, when he left the farm after high school, he seemed to have dreams that would take him a long way from the farm. He went to Brown Institute, hoping to become “the greatest disc jockey in the world.”

He did go into small-town radio and now does an hour-long “Inside the Senate” program, produced by the Republican Senate caucus, that’s been picked up by a few stations.

Parry also has become among that core group of true-conservative believers who will make compromise so difficult for caucus leaders.

Unlike many legislators, he appears to believe there’s almost universal support for the Republican position.

“The overwhelming message I’m getting from people is ‘Hang tough, don’t give in,’ ” Parry said. “I don’t plan to.”

He’s also received encouraging words from his aunt, Kathy Davis, who lives in California and was Ronald Reagan’s personal secretary when he was governor.

According to Parry, his aunt and Reagan had this conversation about their respective futures.

Reagan: “Kathy, I’m running for president and I want you with me.”

Davis: “Oh Ronnie, if politics are even dirtier in Washington, I want nothing to do with it.”

“She sent me an e-mail,” Parry said. “She said, ‘I’m reading about you, stay tough.”

His own rock-ribbed conservatism, he says, has evolved from his compassion. Big government is hurting the little people, not to mention the “entrepreneurs” like himself. (Parry owns a small marketing business and a pizza shop.)

“I’m like every other small-business operator,” Parry said. “I’m struggling. When people don’t have money, they don’t buy pizza. But the government doesn’t care about that. Last year they came up with this 0.4 [of 1 percent] surcharge to businesses on the amount we pay into unemployment. That cost me $3,600 and forced me to lay off one employee.”

That’s what it’s about, he said. His employees.

“It’s devastating to lay somebody off,” he said. “Right now, I have 14 employees getting 20 to 40 hours of work per pay period. What would those people do without those jobs?”

It’s his concern about working people, he said, that led him to take on pension reform for government employees. Without reforms, he said, the pension system will break down and those state workers will get nothing in their retirement. He’s seen two of his brothers-in-law, retired from the private sector, who lost their pensions.

“It’s devastating for them,” he said of his brothers-in-law. “I don’t want that to happen to anybody.”

So he fights (and tweets) for truth, justice and contemporary Republican values.

“What I believe in I believe in passionately,” he said.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

Comments (30)

  1. Submitted by Nicholas Olson on 07/11/2011 - 03:30 am.

    I fail to see how Sen. Parry finds room to gripe when his party is the party of bootstrap-pulling. If he can’t afford to have employees, then he shouldn’t have them.

    My family owns a pizza restaurant that has half as many employees. He must be doing just fine if he can have 14 people work for him. Griping about the cost of doing business has little to do with shutting down the government.

    After reading this article, it seems to me that Sen. Parry is really only out for himself and others like him. He also seems like he just wants to be popular and visibly so. After all, he didn’t need to remind Americans that the president has dark skin. He did that to gain attention. It’s like those that remind us of his middle name, as if he somehow becomes more of a despot.

  2. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 07/11/2011 - 05:22 am.

    Showing us the true ignoramus he is, Parry is just another Repub who failed Economics 101 and has no idea how the world really works.

    He apparently confuses being rude and ill-mannered as humorous. The two could not be more disparate. Unless his wife is of the same temperament as he, she’s obviously not advising him; otherwise she’d tell him to keep his mouth shut, or she’d wash it out with soap.

    Calling President Obama a “power hungry, arrogant black man” seems to indicate that Parry has a fair streak of bigotry running through him. It says more about Parry and his arrogance than anything else.

    As for wanting Governor Dayton to resign because he supposedly “lied” about shutting down state government, that’s just crazy. Dayton did not shut down the government; that’s a Repub action, since they didn’t produce a balanced budget as required by law. If anyone should resign, it’s all the Repubs, since they were supposed to be focused “like a laser” on jobs, jobs, jobs; we all know how unfocused they were toward that issue. Seems they’re the ones who lied.

    Parry has no concern for anyone but himself. He can whine about paying $.04 more for unemployment per employee, but it didn’t force him to lay off any employees. That’s just another lie from a Repub. You can’t believe anything a Repub says; they’re all pathological liars.

  3. Submitted by Mike Underwood on 07/11/2011 - 06:46 am.

    You can’t debate with stupid people, they bring you down to their level and beat you everytime.

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/11/2011 - 07:28 am.

    The good thing about Twitter?

    It provides a permanent record of what asses some people are.

  5. Submitted by Rod Loper on 07/11/2011 - 07:55 am.

    This guy hearts workers sooooo much. I will
    never forget his big smile as he introduced the bill to cut state workers by 15%. Sharks are said to smile just like that.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/11/2011 - 08:23 am.

    The true value of Parry’s tweets is the intellectual vacuum they display. Parry complains about retired politicians while deploying 1970 high school football “lessons” as if they’re some kind of received wisdom. Keep tweeting dude, we appreciate the constant reminders that Republicans have jumped into a moral and intellectual abyss.

  7. Submitted by Alec Timmerman on 07/11/2011 - 08:28 am.

    Ronald Reagan would be ashamed:

    The single most important question facing us tonight is: Do we reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share-or do we accept bigger budget deficits, higher interest rates and higher unemployment… We’re within sight of a safe port of economic recovery. Do we make port or go aground on the shoals of selfishness, partisanship and just plain bullheadedness?
    (Televised speech by Ronald Reagan, August 16, 1982.)

  8. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 07/11/2011 - 09:36 am.

    Parry exaggerates his football lesson, too. I played a few years before him, in a league with Denver-area big schools and we saw two linemen in the entire league who weighed 250, both tubs of lard.

    Even in Texas, the lineman weren’t that big, but Parry, who thinks lying is terrible, conjures up a Goliath to make himself sound tough.

  9. Submitted by Tim Walker on 07/11/2011 - 09:38 am.

    Does anyone want bet that his uncensored tweet about President Obama said “uppity” instead?

  10. Submitted by Roger Smith on 07/11/2011 - 09:55 am.

    Doug, and the editors of MinnPost, this has to be one of the least critical or analytical pieces I have read on this site in recent weeks.

    First, despite Mr. Parry’s proclamation that he cares about the fate of state and government workers, he supports a bill to eliminate 15% of the state workforce. Parry has never produced data points to indicate this is necessary. Mr. Grow does not point out this glaring contradiction between Mr. Parry’s claims and his actions–this omission is shocking.

    Second, I expect a bit more substance and context from MinnPost than to read Mr. Parry waxing philosophical about consituient support. I’d be willing to venture all 201 members of the legislature, if asked, would indicate significant consituient support for their positions. This article does not help readers outside of Mr. Parry’s district know if he does indeed enjoy strong support from his area.

    Please, more substance and context, less veneer.

  11. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 07/11/2011 - 10:00 am.

    “I was a 165-pound guard who was not afraid of that 300-pound tackle in front of me,” he said. “I’d just go after him.”

    There are two possible descriptions for this sort of person “crazy,” or “stupid.”

    “I’m like every other small-business operator,” Parry said. “I’m struggling. When people don’t have money, they don’t buy pizza. But the government doesn’t care about that. Last year they came up with this 0.4 [of 1 percent] surcharge to businesses on the amount we pay into unemployment. That cost me $3,600 and forced me to lay off one employee.”

    Couldn’t be that no one’s buying your pizza. No way. It HAS to be that surcharge. After all, that $3600 at 4-tenths of a percent results from ONLY $900,000 paid into unemployment. I don’t think you’re hurting, Mr. Parry. Nor do I think that a measly $3600 would be sufficient to employ someone.

  12. Submitted by Paul Scott on 07/11/2011 - 10:04 am.

    Too much self-esteem.

    I bet his pizza makes you burp almost as much as his opinions.

  13. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/11/2011 - 10:45 am.

    Senator Parry can be summed up in one sentence: “He sometimes makes faces when DFLers stand up to speak.”

    Why is he the subject of such glowing media attention? In most families, a child who behaved like that would be sent out of the room. In Minnesota, we elect them to the Senate.

  14. Submitted by C.S. Senne on 07/11/2011 - 11:23 am.

    This “rural” guy sounds much like other testosterone-challenged white guys who haven’t quite gotten over high school. His bloviating is remarkably akin to the Black Knight from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And he proudly reminds us that there are just six degrees of separation between him and St. Ronald Reagan. Cool…and do we remember that our current “angry and arrogant” President is black? Keep on twitting, Parry! Use your 15 minutes wisely…

  15. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/11/2011 - 11:28 am.

    Well done, commentators, especially Neal and Paul. I’m also impressed that Alec (#7) can dredge up an old Reagan speech like that.

    Mr. Parry doesn’t qualify ethnically – though perhaps he ought to be reminded that we ALL came from Africa a few hundred thousand years ago – but otherwise, his characterization of Obama seems at least as apropos to himself as the guy he’s criticizing, and that includes his quoted defense of the earlier Tweet. “Arrogant and angry” is the way Parry comes across in this article.

  16. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 07/11/2011 - 12:02 pm.

    He and other republicans are wrong, inaccurate, and simply bullheaded about their refusal to increase taxes. Here is a recent poll result: Most Minnesotans (63 percent) want a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts to cut the deficit.
    Actually, there is a great deal more evidence, nationwide, that demonstrates a majority of Americans–all 60% or higher–want a combination of higher taxes and cuts. Pew compiled 19 polls of Americans and that’s what every single one of them said.

  17. Submitted by will lynott on 07/11/2011 - 01:21 pm.

    Parry is a bomb-throwing demagogue with a Venturian type of “honesty”–one that would include telling overwight people they’re fat and ugly. God forbid we should have an arrogant BLACK man as our President.

    If he thinks our Governor should resign for lying, I assume he also thinks his entire caucus should resign as well, since they, as articulated by Amy Koch at the beginning of the session, promised they would not bring culture war legislation because they were “focused like a laser on the budget.”

    Finally, I agree with other posters here, Doug. This was nothing more than a puff piece. Who’s next–Matt Dean? Bachmann? When did you quit asking the hard questions?

  18. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 07/11/2011 - 01:32 pm.

    Typical of the Republican dysfons who have had their ability to experience or express compassion and empathy beaten out of them (literally or figuratively) by the people who surrounded them as they grew up,…

    Mr. Parry, lacks the ability to imagine what it would have been like to grow up or live in some other environment than the one he experienced.

    For such folks the old aphorism, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” is turned inside out and becomes the prayer of the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, “I thank you, God, that I’m not like other people [sinners]. [Luke 18:10-14]

    Thus, his approaches to all problems, one he shares with the vast majority of current Republican leaders, are that everyone needs to be MORE LIKE HIM (with the clear implication that all those who are not like him deserve to starve to death, die for lack of health care, or need to leave the state).

    Any time an idea that might prove false his very limited perspective on the world threatens to enter his awareness he demonstrates a pathetic inability to consider that idea, but must quickly, loudly, and obnoxiously push it away by expressing his derision for the person or people expressing it.

    He must be a WONDERFUL boss, musn’t he (the kind who knows everything about everything; whose ideas tend to screw things up, whose employees have to work around him in order to make the business function well, who fires anyone he discovers to be doing so, and whose constant requirement of his employees, just as is the case with Bill Cooper at TCF is that they find ways to make him as much money as possible (by hook or by crook)?

  19. Submitted by craig furguson on 07/11/2011 - 01:36 pm.

    “The handshake is what mattered when you were a farmer,” he said. “Your word was all that mattered. People looked each other in the eye, they helped each other.”

    I see that Perry grew up on a farm. I grew up on a farm and was a farmer who failed in the 1980’s and then took 10 years to pay off my bills. If he acted on the farm like he does in public, he’d offer very little and get very little help from his neighbors. People know trouble when I see it.

  20. Submitted by David Greene on 07/11/2011 - 01:50 pm.

    “The handshake is what mattered when you were a farmer,” he said. “Your word was all that mattered. People looked each other in the eye, they helped each other.”

    Y’know, my grandma often told the story of her dad who had a harness shop in Elk River, back in the days when such shops were vital to our agricultural industry.

    It turns out that many farmers in those days were immigrants who didn’t speak English (sound familiar?). The bankers back then used to go around and provide mortgages to those farmers but didn’t bother to explain their tax responsibilities. The hope was that the farmer would not pay taxes and thus fall into tax foreclosure.

    A handshake, as it turns out, wasn’t worth much back in those days.

    Every year my great-grandfather would go around to each of those farmers and remind them to pay their taxes.

    So as today, people helped each other, but it wasn’t the bankers and it wasn’t just helping those in your own ethnic or wealth demographic. Both things Republicans seem to have forgotten.

  21. Submitted by K Johnson on 07/11/2011 - 02:06 pm.

    Parry should also resign. They ran on Jobs, Jobs, JOBS! yet they did nothing except lay people off.

  22. Submitted by Annie Grandy on 07/11/2011 - 02:23 pm.

    I am grateful to Mr. Perry for tweeting. We know exactly where he stands but especially ‘who’ he is. And it is possible to keep a permanent record of his bigotry and narcissistic existentialism. I am glad you included his picture – he looks just like I pictured John Gault when I read Ayn Rand.
    He, like other Republicans, probably only meets with business owners and school children (John Kline, Erik Paulsen) in his district so how is he possibly going to know what his constituents think? Thank you, Ginny, for presenting the polling results. Mr. Perry you might want to get out and speak with the other 60% of your district.
    The comments were much more interesting and questioning than the article. Didn’t seem to be up to your usual standards, Mr. Grow. Have the Koch brothers gotten to you, too?

  23. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 07/11/2011 - 02:25 pm.

    I guess I agree with the softball question comments directed at Doug Grow. One big question comes to my mind. This guy, who cares for “working people” and is devastated by a layoff over a 3600 dollar surcharge. First, like one commenter pointed out, 3600 dollars was offset by the salary of one employee? How much are you paying them Mr Compassion?

    But my more important question is does he pay any of his employees health insurance or any other meaningful benefits? My guess is no, that his jobs are minimum wage or low paying and if people who work for him get sick, lotsa luck. Too bad Doug didn’t dig a little deeper, although I’m guessing if he had, the guy would have cut him off.

    I’m left with the image of some guy earning $3600 per year looking for health insurance with a $10000 deductible and still not being able to afford it. But we should have mercy on this arrogant, selfish bonehead.

  24. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/11/2011 - 02:42 pm.

    Good point, and well-taken, David (#21).

    I spent some years on a farm in Missouri, where some of our farmer neighbors fit Thomas Jefferson’s Agrarian Myth to a “T,” while others were folks Mr. Parry would have us believe live only in decadent urban areas. That is, some were honest and forthright, and fiscally conservative, just as Mr. Jefferson intended, and others – while shaking your hand and looking you straight in the eye – didn’t mind at all if they cheated you a little bit. Not so much that you went belly-up, mind you – most of us don’t like that kind of guilt – but enough that, sometimes years later, you found that their handshake didn’t mean what they wanted you to believe it did.

    Sometimes, the steer didn’t weigh quite what it should have, or the hay was a few bales short of what was promised. As David suggests, a handshake from an honest man is a pledge as good as gold. From someone less honest, it’s not worth much, even if he’s wearing the stereotypical bib overalls and a John Deere cap.

  25. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 07/11/2011 - 05:26 pm.

    “The good thing about Twitter?

    It provides a permanent record of what asses some people are. ”

    Not if the tweeter deletes it. It’s only permanent if someone makes a screen capture.

    Which yes, I did last week:

  26. Submitted by Monica Drewelow on 07/11/2011 - 10:51 pm.

    Mr. Parry’s remark about “rockers” in referring to Mondale and Carlson was clearly meant to demean them based on their age and diminish any advice they would have to offer. The stark contrast between these men of stature and accomplishment and Mr. Parry is a sad reminder of the good government we no longer have.

  27. Submitted by v murphy on 07/11/2011 - 11:33 pm.

    Maybe Mr. Parry should resign because he’s a liar too. Lining up a against a 300 pound lineman as a member of the 1970 Albert Lea football team? Give me a break! The NFL didn’t have its first 300 pound player until Curtis “Boo Boo” Rouse joined the Vikes in 1980. Hyperbole and vitriol along with a bunch of BS is about all Mr. Parry is good at delivering.

  28. Submitted by Joanne Kube-Harderwijk on 07/12/2011 - 09:16 am.

    If $3600 is an additional .4% of his unemployment insurance, Mr. Perry must be spending $900,000 on unemployment insurance. (3600/.004 = 900000/1 where.004 is .4% and 1 is 100%). If he is taking in that kind of money, he shouldn’t be worried about a piddly $3600.
    He might however consider spending a bit more on a good accountant, because if his current accountant is telling him to lay someone off because of this his accountant doesn’t know how to run a business. I suspect he layed off a person because he didn’t have the business because too many people have been layed off.
    Now he has one more customer who won’t be buying pizza.

  29. Submitted by William Pappas on 07/12/2011 - 06:38 pm.

    Parry is only 58? Could have fooled me. He acts and talks like he’s from another generation. He fits in nicely with the new republican leadership though. He’s racist, uncomprimising and an ideologue on taxes. With republicans like Parry is it any wonder there is no agreement on a budget comprimise?

  30. Submitted by Dean Ryan on 07/13/2011 - 07:39 am.

    We need a little less “Humor” and more responsibility from our elected officials. Just like Wisconsin Minnesota voters will be making big changes at the next election. These politicians are not listening to what the polls are telling them, they continue to gather in groups that mandate party doctrine, this is unacceptable, and a price will be paid buy those who choose to ignore the people wishes. Good riddance.

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