MOORHEAD — Dr. Noel Collis wants to give Washington, D.C., a colonoscopy, which we hope you didn't learn by watching TV at dinner time.
"Let's clean 'em out!" a rubber glove-wearing Collis says in a television spot exhorting Minnesota Seventh Congressional District voters to choose him in next Tuesday's Republican primary, taking President Trump's "Drain the Swamp" mantra three notches higher. Or lower.
It is likely a long-shot campaign, given that his opponent is well-funded party- and Trump-endorsed former state legislator Michelle Fischbach, but that's dampened neither Collis' enthusiasm nor campaign spending. The 68-year-old gastroenterologist from Albany has spent nearly $700,000 of his own money — including scads on five different TV ads — in an effort to beat Fischbach for the right to take on U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, the Democrat who has represented western Minnesota in Congress for 28 years.
Collis' campaign has been running TV ads for weeks during local morning shows, the news and on cable outlets. He's spent almost $60,000 on Fargo's WDAY-TV alone, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission. You can't miss them. Nor would you want to, actually, being that they are original, sometimes funny, more lighthearted than most political doom-and-gloom ads and cheesy enough to add to their entertainment value.
This is not an endorsement of the candidate. But the ads? Not bad, at least by the standards of today's apocalyptic political landscape.
In a phone conversation Monday, Aug. 3, Collis said the ads are the collective brainchild of his campaign staff, meant to differentiate him (as a squeaky clean political outsider) from Fischbach (who he says is a dishonest career politician).
"Honesty and integrity are important," Collis said. "That's what differentiates me from the political establishment."
Collis isn't the only Republican taking shots at Fischbach, who only won the party's endorsement after eight rounds of voting in May. Fischbach's top competitor at the Seventh District's virtual convention, Dave Hughes, was granted a temporary restraining order against her then-campaign manager for harassment and filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging she illegally coordinated with two political action committees — one run by her mother and one run by her husband.
In the phone conversation, Collis repeatedly accused Fischbach of breaking the law for not registering as a lobbyist.
"I'm the principled conservative candidate who is not a career politician and who doesn't break the law," Collis said.
Fischbach's campaign doesn't seem overly concerned about Collis' challenge. Spokesman David FitzSimmons noted Collis finished fifth of five candidates in the endorsement process.
"He's obviously spending a lot of his own money on this. We're feeling very confident we're running a winning campaign on all fronts," FitzSimmons said. "We're confident in the results of the primary, and we're building a campaign that's looking ahead to the general election."
That didn't stop Fischbach from spending more than $15,000 on advertising on WDAY in the final week before the primary, according to federal election filings.
Guarantee: They won't be as entertaining as the ads for Collis.
Yeah, Collis' ads paint him as pro-gun, pro-Trump and anti-abortion. That's Republican red meat. Yawn. But one of the ads portrays a young Fischbach standing up in class to declare she wants to grow up to be a career politician whose friends will become lobbyists. The highlight: At the end of the spot, a tow-headed boy stands up and says, "I want to be a career politician, too!" The teacher responds with a curt, "Collin, sit down."
Collis takes credit for the idea behind the colonoscopy ad, saying he's had patients react similarly to the actor in the commercial.
"I was confident if the ad were run on a widespread basis that voters would respond positively, that they'd want to clean out Washington," he said. "I'm glad people are viewing it positively. It's like I tell my nurses: We need to work hard, but there's no reason why we can't have a little fun doing it."
Fun, unless you're eating dinner when Collis appears on your TV bringing up the subject of a colonoscopy.
At least he didn't snap the rubber glove.