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Willmar DFL caucus prefers Clinton

WILLMAR -- People who've been attending DFL caucuses since the 1970s had never seen a crowd like the one at Bethel Lutheran Church in Willmar Tuesday evening.More than 350 people packed into the basement of the church to cast ballots for their pr...

Democratic Party caucus
An estimated 350 people showed up Tuesday night at Bethel Lutheran Church for the local Democratic Party caucus. (GARY MILLER | TRIBUNE)

WILLMAR - People who’ve been attending DFL caucuses since the 1970s had never seen a crowd like the one at Bethel Lutheran Church in Willmar Tuesday evening.
More than 350 people packed into the basement of the church to cast ballots for their presidential preference and to begin the process of selecting delegates and considering resolutions.
Caucuses are the first building block in a process that eventually leads to the Democratic Party’s national convention and its platform, a statement of the party’s core beliefs.
In presidential preference balloting, precincts from Willmar, Willmar Township and Whitefield Township cast 204 votes for Hillary Clinton and 151 for Bernie Sanders, 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent. Two ballots were cast as uncommitted.
The caucus opened with a short speech by former state Rep. Mary Sawatzky, who is running for the legislative seat she lost in the 2014 election. She asked for volunteer help during her campaign and led the crowd in a saying favored by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, “We all do better when we all do better.” The crowd cheered.
At one point, convener Aaron Welch asked if there was anyone who wanted to challenge the eligibility of another attended. When no one said anything, he said, “Yay, we’re all Democrats!’
Caucus attendees represented a cross-section of the community, young and old, Somali, Hispanic and Anglo.
Marilyn Yoakum said it was the largest crowd she’d seen at a caucus since moving to Willmar in the early 1970s. Steve Enockson, a former Willmar City Council member, said the same.
“I was gratified and thrilled to see so many high school kids,” Yoakum said.
Sam Mellies-U’Ren and Ellery Knight, both 17-year-old seniors at Willmar Senior High, were at their first caucus. Both will be old enough to vote by the November election.
“We both came here without our parents,” Sam said. “It’s the first adult thing we get to do by ourselves:”
Both had preferences for president but didn’t want to share them publicly. “I like to keep my opinion to myself,” Ellery said.
Two other first-time caucus attendees were named chair and vice-chair of Willmar’s Ward 3 Precinct 2. Cassandra Watters, 21, was the precinct chair, and her partner Dominic Kellogg, 23, was vice-chair.
“We really strongly believe in a presidential candidate and wanted to come out and get involved in politics,” she said.
Kellogg said he had been interested in politics for a long time but had not been to a caucus before.

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In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: lvanderwerf@wctrib.com or phone 320-214-4340
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