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Straw polls, grassroots politics part of precinct caucuses set for Tuesday

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WILLMAR –– Local Republicans will take a straw poll vote on state candidates, DFL’ers will discuss and adopt resolutions and the Independence Party will recruit candidates Tuesday when Minnesota’s precinct caucuses are held.

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Despite the different agendas of the parties, organizers say they share the common goal of nurturing grassroots political involvement.

“A lot of people complain on the sidelines,” said Rollie Nissen, chairman of the Kandiyohi County Republican Party. “Be part of the process. Complaining about it doesn’t accomplish anything.”

“Caucuses are where you have a shot at changing something at the grassroots level,” said Nissen. “If people don’t attend a political caucus then “others will make decisions for you,” he said.

In Kandiyohi County, the DFL, Republican Party and Independence Party will hold precinct caucuses at various locations. The meetings, typically the first step for political parties to select candidates and choose the party’s goals and values, begin at 7 p.m.

However, people are encouraged to arrive early to register.

Besides hearing from candidates, attendees will spend much of the time voting on resolutions to add to their state party platforms.

Because there are currently no contested races in the local or statewide DFL party elections, caucuses will likely focus on resolutions, according to Shane Baker, Kandiyohi County DFL chairman.

The meetings will give people an opportunity to participate in the political process, he said. “We are a democracy and it only helps when people are involved at all levels.”

Dave Holman, the 78-year old chairman of the Seventh District Independence Party, said he’s hoping for a good turnout.

In the past, Independence Party caucuses have had slim turnouts, he said.

“We’re going to have more this year,” said Holman, a retired teacher from Morris, who boasts decades of political experience with the GOP and DFL and is now working to expand the Independence Party regionally.

“About 40 percent of people now say they are independent, and we’re trying to get them to come to Independence Party,” Holman said. “We need to get them to caucuses.”

Viable candidates willing to be “foot soldiers” will be recruited at the caucuses. Holman said his goal is to get one to two candidates elected to the Minnesota House this year.

“We need to get things started,” he said, adding the party will hold its Seventh District convention in Willmar or Alexandria this year.

Turnout at the caucuses varies each year, with attendance usually higher if same-party candidates are competing for endorsement.

That’s happening this year in the GOP, where multiple candidates are seeking endorsement to run against Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Non-binding straw poll votes will be taken at the local caucuses to gauge support for the GOP candidates, which could sway how party delegates will vote during the nominating conventions.

Nissen said he doesn’t expect any of the statewide candidates to make an appearance at the caucuses. He’s received letters and brochures that will be read at the meetings.

There are two GOP candidates — Dave Baker and Linda Kacher — seeking endorsement for the House 17B seat to run against Rep. Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar.

Nissen said he’s been informed that Baker and Kacher will attend the caucuses. He said there will not be a straw poll vote taken for that race. Delegates will decide which candidate to endorse at the March 8 convention in Willmar.

Individuals who are unsure of which precinct they live in can find the information online at: http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/ and entering your zip code and address.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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