After failing to garner a GOP endorsement for the U.S. Senate race, former Medford resident Phillip Parrish isn’t finished yet.
He said that a 2016 run for the Minnesota House or Senate is likely after his experience in what he called a successful grassroots campaign.
“I feel pretty good,” Parrish said. “I mean, we literally built connections and relationships and people connected with what I was saying.”
Parrish, who was born in Blue Earth and grew up in Medford, said he met many people in person and on social media who shared his views on the state of the federal government. He said his campaign connected with a lot of people even though a lot of the connecting was done from England, where he works.
With tea party affiliations and a constitutionalist outlook, Parrish engaged the campaign like a mission. He expressed that he was “gravely concerned” with the country and spoke of cover-ups and ill-intent at the hands of current officials. Democratic leadership, he said, is full of “globalists” and “elitists” who don’t look after the public welfare.
At the state GOP convention on May 30 and 31, many delegates heard Parrish for the first time. He needed a last-minute extension in order to gather 45 signatures to complete a petition for possible endorsement.
During his speech, he impressed the crowd with a passionate speech that included a much-relayed quote.
“We can defend our gun rights, because come on, man. Come and take it from me,” Parrish said in front of the audience in Rochester.
Minnesota Republican Party treasurer and Northfield resident Bron Scherer was sitting in front at the Mayo Civic Center as Parrish spoke. He said that the crowd really reacted to the candidate.
“You could feel it in the convention hall if you were there,” Scherer said. “It wasn’t manufactured excitement.”
Scherer added that it probably swayed some delegates.
On the first ballot, Parrish received 16 percent of the delegate vote. That was an unexpected share of the votes, said Dave Thul, co-chair of Steele County Republicans. Candidates who thought they had a grasp on delegate votes didn’t expect nearly 300 to go toward the unknown candidate from Medford.
“I think he affected the political calculus of the convention,” Thul said.
Parrish dropped out soon after, and businessman Mike McFadden received the endorsement after 10 ballots and an overnight recess.
Parrish said that he decided early on to abide by the GOP endorsement. Since the convention, he has returned to his work overseas as an intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve. He also works in the private sector as a systems administrator.
Most of his campaign money came from an $11,000 loan, and he said a lot of his personal savings was spent in the venture. Still, Parrish considers the experience a success. He said that one of the biggest victories was that he met people who relate to his political leanings.
“They’re all saying the same thing,” Parrish said. “They’re all saying, ‘Why the federal overreach?’”
Scherer said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Parrish run an effective campaign in the future. People respond to his passion.
And that’s the plan for Parrish. His civilian contract ends next fall, and his sights are set on a state-level seat. He said he doesn’t know whether he’ll run for the house or senate, but is leaning toward the latter.
“I’ve had at least one call or email per day to run for state in 2016,” Parrish said. “And we will. We will run for state office in 2016.”
Reach reporter Matt Hudson at 507-444-2372. Follow him on Twitter @OPPMattH