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C&C: Caucus season has begun for 2010 elections

<ong>Caucus season has begun for 2010 elections

February 2nd did not bring a groundhog to Northfield, but the city did see a shadow of the 2010 election season as precinct caucuses for the Minnesota gubernatorial election to replace outgoing Gov. Tim Pawlenty were held.

About twenty Carleton students gathered in the front of Sayles at around six on Tuesday night to wait for rides to their Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party precinct’s caucus at the Northfield Middle School. The group largely divided themselves into two circles that were based upon the two gubernatorial candidates they supported, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and state Rep. Paul Thissen. The Rybak circle was substantially larger.

Erik Anderson ’13 stood at one end of the Rybak circle carrying Rybak signs. “Well, I’m from Minneapolis so I’ve seen the good work he’s done.” said Anderson.

Many in the crowd at one of these caucuses had been involved with local DFL politics and caucuses for years. One Northfield couple recalled a pork roast they held for current candidate and state Senator John Marty when he was the DFL gubernatorial nominee in 1994. In this small glimpse of democracy in which Carls were able to participate, Rybak tied Marty as the victors of the precinct’s DFL gubernatorial straw poll. In statewide DFL results, Rybak narrowly led state House speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher. State Rep. Marty Siefert won a decisive victory over his closest competitor State Rep. Tom Emmer in the Republican caucuses.

Does this really mean anything? To best get an answer, one must have a sense of the caucus process. The caucus process has been condemned by many people across the country as turning away prospective voters through its complex procedures. Minnesota, frequently leading the nation in voter turnout, remains committed to its caucus process.

Yet there will also be a gubernatorial primary in late summer. The caucuses will more than likely narrow the number of candidates in the race until each party endorses a candidate at their state conventions. The DFL primary will likely contain the DFL endorsement candidate and former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, who is avoiding participating in the caucuses but is still considered one of the front-runners in the race, as well as any other DFL candidates who decide not to withdraw after the caucus process.

The caucus began by having a straw poll vote where each participant voted for their candidate on a tiny ballot. Dayton supporters supposedly marked “uncommitted” on their straw poll ballot. Amidst the period of straw poll voting, representatives spoke on the behalf of the candidates. George Kennedy ’10 and Brian Gilbert ’11 spoke for Rybak and Thissen, respectively.

Micah Marty, a senior at St. Olaf, spoke for his father John Marty. The caucus was then broken up into each precinct with a Caucus Chair leading each smaller caucus. The smaller caucuses began with a delegation of responsibilities for each precinct. Mary Lewis Grow, the wife of Political Science Professor Roy Grow, was voted to a 2-year term as head precinct chair by acclamation. Ben Somogyi ’12 was voted as one of pair of secondary precinct chairs by acclamation.

Other Carleton students became precinct committee members. Then delegates were selected for the Rice County DFL Convention in Faribault on March 6. Because of Northfield’s large 2008 voter turnout, the city was allocated 46 delegates. With that many delegate spots, people simply signed up to be a delegate instead of facing election for the delegate position. Several Carls will be delegates.

After delegate selection, resolutions were proposed to be possibly considered part of the new DFL political platform. Many of the resolutions were accepted by precincts unanimously such as ones on global warming, protecting the Minnesota Boundary Waters from non-ferrous mining, illegal immigrant rights, and gun control.

Others were more controversial. One caucus participant proposed a resolution that called for the end of CIA covert operations, citing JFK’s possible assassination by the CIA as an example of the CIA’s wrongdoing. Another resolution wanted Minnesota to divest from Israel. The participant who submitted the resolution claimed Israel was an “apartheid state” and cited previous divestments from Sudan and Iran as examples that supported a divestment from Israel.

The precinct caucus serves a genuine role in Minnesota state elections by serving as the first word in the long election season. Candidates and ideas who do not garner enough support in precinct caucuses mostly fade subsequently. The caucus also gives a voice in state parties that cannot be heard through a ballot. Nancy Kasper, one of the participants in the caucus said of the precinct caucus’s importance, “It allows people to speak out about whatever is important to them and I wouldn’t be able to think of any other that so many issues could be raised.”

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