Caucuses see very low citizen turnout in county

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DFL caucus goers gathered at the Northside Elementary School last Tuesday to consider resolutions and vote on a straw ballot for their gubernatorial candidate of choice.
Republicans met at the Benson High School. Caucus turnout was very low for both parties though DFLers had a slight edge.

Nearly 5,000 Swift County citizens voted in the presidential election in 2016. Total county turnout for last Tuesday’s precinct caucuses was 56.

The county’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party saw 31 people attend caucuses in Benson, Kerkhoven and Appleton while Republicans saw 25 people attend their three county caucuses.

DFLers chose District 1 U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of southern Minnesota as their top choice for governor in the straw poll that was conducted during its caucus. Walz received 10 votes to State Auditor Deb Otto’s seven. State Representatives Paul Thissen and Tina Liebling each received three votes and Rep. Erin Murphy got two.

Among the Republican candidates, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson received 17 votes with the second place finisher Keith Downey far behind with just four votes.

Swift County’s straw ballot reflected statewide sentiment in its choices for governor among both DFLers and Republicans.  Walz won 30.3 percent of the vote in Minnesota with Otto second at 19.8 percent.

Johnson received 45.4 percent of the state straw ballot vote among Republicans with Downey a distant second at 14.6 percent.

Their wins in the Feb. 6 straw ballot gives both Walz and Johnson momentum for their gubernatorial runs. For at least one DFL candidate who finished low in the vote it meant the end of his campaign. State Rep. Paul Thissen dropped out last Wednesday after finishing last among the six candidates in the DFL field. Former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman dropped out Monday.

Statewide, DFLers saw nearly three times the turnout from Republican supporters. The DLF drew 32,680 caucus goers while Republicans saw just 10,909.  Total state caucus turnout was 43,589. In the 2016 presidential election, 2.945 million Minnesotans voted.

While DFL caucus attendance was higher this year than it was in the 2014 gubernatorial election year while Republican attendance was down by 3,000 – a substantial decline considering the low turnout.

Those caucuses marked the first step in each party’s march toward nominating conventions in June, an early chance for Democratic and Republican voters to get involved in selecting delegates and crafting new platforms. But at 4,000-plus precinct sites across the state, the straw polling in the governor’s race was the main event.

While Johnson and Walz have the momentum, the results are rarely indicative of who will capture each party’s nomination, and large amounts of undecided voters show plenty of room for change - especially among an unsettled Republican field....

 

For more on this story, and to keep up on all the latest news, subscribe to the Swift County Monitor-News print edition or our PDF internet edition. Call 320-843-4111 and you can get all the local news and sports delivered to you!
 

 

Pictured, top: DFL caucus goers gathered at the Northside Elementary School last Tuesday to consider resolutions and vote on a straw ballot for their gubernatorial candidate of choice. Below, Republicans met at the Benson High School. Caucus turnout was very low for both parties though DFLers had a slight edge.
 

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