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.”
“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.
“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.”
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.)
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.
“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.