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Candidates for Congress, state auditor on hand at GOP event; DFL draws less of a crowd

Lee Byberg, right, of Willmar addresses an audience Tuesday at the Republican Party's event in Willmar. Byberg is running for the District 7 House of Representatives seat held by Congressman Collin Peterson. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

In 2008, people were still standing in line at 8 p.m. to register at the DFL caucus site in Willmar.

This year, most of the people had already gone home by 8 p.m.

"It was a wonderful showing of the party faithful," said Jill Gould, giving a positive view of the showing of 48 people who registered.

"There's no way you can compare the last caucus to this caucus," said Gould, who convened the caucus in the basement of Bethel Lutheran Church. "This is probably more typical."

There were about 100 people at the Republican caucus that met across town at the Willmar middle school.

"This is a normal crowd," said co-chairman Rollie Nissen, who called the 2008 crowds "abnormal."

At the DFL event there were no candidates pleading for support and little discussion among precinct members about issues or resolutions. The primary purpose was to cast non-binding preference ballots for one of the 12 candidates running for governor.

Kandiyohi County DFL Chairman Sam Nelson said Margaret Anderson-Kelliher received the most votes Tuesday in the county and "uncommitted" was second.

Nelson said Anderson-Kelliher's visibility as the House Majority Leader helped her pull ahead of the other candidates that are not as well known.

Because it's early in the process, Nelson also said voters are "sort of playing it close to the vest" and want to see and hear more from the candidates before making a commitment.

There was considerable more activity at the Republican caucus where several candidates, including state auditor candidate Jeff Wiita, made personal appearances and gave speeches.

Lee Byberg, of Willmar, spoke passionately about his reasons for running for the District 7 House of Representatives seat currently held by Congressman Collin Peterson.

He said voters shouldn't "take for granted" that the opportunities they had as children will still be available for their children and grandchildren if strong leaders aren't elected.

A student of history, Byberg said he's basing his campaign on the basic principals of the Founding Fathers: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. "What I'm about is what the Founding Fathers did," he said.

Byberg, who is the general manager of Willmar Poultry Company, said there needs to be a "re-awakening" in the country to stand by those principals.

He said he was excited about working to get the Republican nomination so he could face Peterson in the general election.

"What an amazing country where you can do this," said Byberg with a strong Scandinavian accent that reflects the years he spent living in Norway with his family.

Bruce Vogel, who is running against Rep. Al Juhnke, briefly addressed the crowd, as did Sen. Joe Gimse who then traveled north to attend other caucuses in District 13.

Letters from the seven gubernatorial candidates were also read.

Nissen predicted State Rep. Marty Seifert would "do well" in the straw poll ballots cast in Kandiyohi County.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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