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Dayton spars with Parry over medicine

Eric Stalboerger of Belgrade talks to Gov. Mark Dayton about government rules that he fears will cause him to plow under some of his sugar beet crop. Dayton later said a state senator lied when he said the governor took 15 or 16 pills during a meeting. Don Davis | Bemidji Pioneer

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn. - Gov. Mark Dayton says he takes pills for his depression and stomach acid problems, but adds that a state senator lied about his pill popping.

Republican Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca, running for U.S. House in southern Minnesota, called the incident "scary" as he spoke to a Brown County GOP fundraiser.

Parry told his Monday audience that that Dayton took "15 or 16 pills" during a breakfast meeting earlier this year. His comments came to light in a video that the New Ulm Journal posted online.

At Farmfest on Tuesday, he backed off the specific number.

"It was more than just a few," Parry said, adding that "it was not M&M peanuts," the governor's favorite candy.

"I was there, I saw it," Parry said.

Dayton, also at Farmfest, said that he did not mind being attacked, but Parry is wrong.

"The 15 or 16 was just a lie," Dayton told reporters.

Dayton said he long ago told Minnesotans that he suffers from depression and takes medicine to control it. At Farmfest he added that he also takes medicine to control stomach acid, but has not needed that much since legislators adjourned for the year in May.

Minnesotans accepted his admission to depression and alcoholism, Dayton said.

The Democratic governor said Parry used the allegation because of the Aug. 14 primary, where he and Allen Quist are seeking the Republican nomination to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in southern Minnesota.

"He is six days before a primary that he probably is going to lose," Dayton said.

Parry would not say why he brought up the pill incident, saying his point was that a Democratic-controlled Legislature would be dangerous. He said he is "sympathetic for people who have to take medicine," adding that he takes some, too.

"I frankly don't care what Parry thinks," Dayton said.

Parry and Dayton often have battled since Dayton took office. Parry is an outspoken conservative, small-government, low-taxes lawmaker, which often puts him at odds with liberal Dayton.

"I have never been known to be politically correct all of the time," Parry said.

While Parry said he would never say Dayton should resign because of his medicine use, he did call on the governor to quit a year ago when part of state government shut down 21 days after Democrats and Republicans could not agree on a new budget.

"He is in office and I would never bring it up," Parry said about Dayton resigning.

The morning breakfast was much discussed at the time, during the legislative session, because it came after Parry and Dayton ended an earlier meeting in dispute.

"We took the gloves off," Parry said about the breakfast meeting.

While Dayton said he takes medicine as needed, whether in a meeting or not, he said he did not take the number of pills Parry claimed.

The pills, Parry said, "were on the table." Dayton did not take them from a bottle, he added.

While they disputed the pill incident, Parry and Dayton did agree on the need to adequately fund veterans' programs, saying they are important. However, they charged that the other stalled that funding.

Parry said in a Farmfest U.S. House forum that he has worked for veterans and received applause from the farmer audience when he gave "a shout out" to veterans. A National Guard cap sat in front of him during the forum.

In his capacity as candidate in southern Minnesota's 1st Congressional District, Parry told the Farmfest audience that the U.S. House needs more people willing to work smoothly with people from the other party. He said that type of person is a statesman, and he considers himself one.

Avoiding the truth, he added, "is not being a statesman."

When Dayton was asked if Parry was a statesman, the governor replied: "I haven't noticed that."