As is custom the first February Tuesday in an even numbered year, some Minnesota political activists gathered for caucus night. This is a biannual opportunity to speak up on behalf of political candidates running in local and statewide races, as well as propose resolution to the state party platform (those are usually…..interesting).
Perhaps one of the more overhyped aspects of this event is the non-binding straw polling conducted. With both MN governor Mark Dayton and Senator Al Franken up for reelection, GOP activists across the state had an opportunity to reveal their initial preference for which candidates should represent the party in November’s election.
I have to admit I was mildly surprised that Marty Seifert won the gubernatorial straw poll, finishing two percentage points (28-26) ahead of Dave Thompson. Meanwhile in the Senate straw poll, Julianne Ortman emerged victorious, outdistancing runner up Mike McFadden 31-23.
What really stood out to me Tuesday was the fact caucus attendance was down approximately 27% from the last midterm election cycle in 2010. I really don’t know what to read into that, though initially I was concerned with the drop off. After all, one would think there would be a sense of urgency to oust both Dayton and Franken from their respective political offices, thus people would be motivated to get to work. But as I thought more about it, there are several GOP candidates among both the gubernatorial and senate contests who have pretty well stated they will not honor the Republican party endorsement if they don’t receive it, thus forcing a primary election in August. In 2010 however, the two main gubernatorial candidates, Tom Emmer and Seifert, were committed to abide by said endorsement. So part of the reason for the slide in caucus attendance could be that many activists feel that even if elected as delegates to the state convention their endorsement vote will be marginalized. As such, perhaps they’re choosing to save their energy for the summer when primary campaigns ramp up.
Despite GOP caucus attendance being down across the state, I got a sense that in my state senate district (SD35, comprised of Ramsey, Anoka, Andover and a sliver of Coon Rapids) there was a fair showing relative to 2010. Because the large majority of our SD is in Congressional District Six, many activists had an added incentive to show up because our incumbent U.S. House member, Michele Bachmann, will not seek reelection this year. Of the three candidates seeking the GOP nomination for that seat, Tom Emmer won the CD6 straw poll handily with 67.7% of the vote, followed by Rhonda Sivarajah with 17.7% and Phil Krinkie with 10.3 (4.3% were undecided).
Our SD diverted from the statewide results as Thompson was the preferred gubernatorial candidate and Jim Abeler (who currently represents the “A” side of our senate district in the MN House) got the nod for U.S. Senate (statewide, he finished fourth overall behind Ortman, McFadden and “Undecided.”)
With Abeler abandoning his MN House seat (for now) to run for U.S. Senate, the residents in House District 35A (myself included) will have a choice to make regarding who will receive the GOP nod for that seat. Right now, Abigail Whelan and Don Huizenga have stepped forward to make their case to delegates (of which I am one) at the SD35 convention on March 1.
It’s on now!