Gov. Mark Dayton struck back hard Tuesday at a Republican congressional candidate who portrayed him as a pill popper, describing Mike Parry as a desperate politician looking for a boost at his expense ahead of a difficult primary election.
Parry, a state senator running in a contentious southern Minnesota primary, set off the spat Monday at a Brown County Republican fundraiser.
A video of Parry's speech posted online by a New Ulm Journal reporter shows Parry saying of Dayton: "When you sit across from him and you watch him pop 15 to 16 pills when you're having a meeting, it's scary." Parry emphasized the importance of keeping Republican control of the Legislature.
During an unrelated appearance Tuesday in Brooklyn Park, reporters asked Dayton about Parry's remark. The governor said it "says a lot more about him than it does about me."
"In this era of gutter politics, something like that, especially somebody who probably thinks he's losing an election in six days is going to reach for anything he can and try to make an issue out of it and blow it up and see if he can get an advantage with it," Dayton said.
Dayton spokesman Bob Hume said he doesn't know what Parry meant, but he said the governor sometimes takes antacids. Dayton has also said he takes medication for depression.
Parry faces fellow Republican Allen Quist in next Tuesday's primary election to determine who will challenge Democratic Rep. Tim Walz in the 1st District.
The feud between Dayton and Parry goes back to 2011, when each blamed the other for cutting a grant program that helped pay for the honor guards at funerals of military veterans.
In the primary, Parry has made an issue of intemperate comments made by Quist in the 1980s and 1990s, saying they call Quist's judgment and electability into question. Quist has brought up reckless Twitter posts Parry made before he ran for state Senate in a special election in 2010.
On Twitter Tuesday, Democratic Reps. Terry Morrow and Ryan Winkler urged Parry to apologize for the pill remark, while Republican Rep. Jim Abeler called Dayton a "gentleman."
Parry stood by the comment on Tuesday when asked by reporters at the Farmfest agricultural fair near Redwood Falls. "I was there. I saw it," he said, according to the Star Tribune.