Caucuses give citizens first-hand say in party politicsPolitical parties in Carlton County are gearing up for the upcoming precinct caucuses slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Political parties in Carlton County are gearing up for the upcoming precinct caucuses slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7.
A precinct caucus is actually a neighborhood meeting. If you go, what you’re going to encounter are friends and acquaintances who share many of the same ideas about how they view the world. Democrats, Republicans and, in some cases, members of the Independence and/or Green parties, gather with others from their county to discuss and share ideas – the first, and perhaps most vital, step in a much larger process that ends with Election Day next November.
A precinct caucus is the one opportunity for citizens to truly feel engaged in the political process, helping to determine how the election year ahead will shape up and who will represent them at all levels of government.
Anyone can attend any caucus to observe the proceedings and listen to the discussions. They’re all open to the public. You can actively participate in the caucus if you will be an eligible voter by the Nov. 6 election and if you support, or are likely to support, that party’s candidates. That’s all there is to it. And yet, only about 5 percent of Minnesota citizens take advantage of participating in this grassroots opportunity – typically about 200,000 of the state’s roughly 4 million eligible voters. At least some of that can no doubt be attributed to a lack of understanding of what goes on at a precinct caucus and what the implications are in the political process as a whole.
So just what can you expect when you attend your local caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 7?
For one thing, precinct caucuses nominate, and eventually elect, permanent officers and delegates to the next level of the organization.
In addition, the caucus will provide an open forum for you to share your views on a variety of issues and help submit and vote on resolutions that will help guide the candidates and members of the party. And these are not complicated rules of governance that you’re voting on – they are issues that concern you directly, such as taxes, education, transportation and property rights that hit you right where you live.
Precinct caucuses are the first step used by Minnesota’s major political parties to select the candidates and issues they will support in the 2012 elections. Delegates elected at the precinct caucus will go on to party conventions held later in the year. Preference polls for a party’s presidential candidates may also be conducted at the caucuses.
Republicans will likely have more media attention this year as they take a straw poll to see who the favorite is for the party’s presidential nominee. Though the poll isn’t binding, it is a good indicator of how the candidates stand among the party faithful. On this year’s ballot will be Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
In the 8th Congressional District, a race is heating up for the local seat in the U.S. Congress. While incumbent Chip Cravaack of North Branch is the Republicans’ candidate, three DFL candidates are vying for the nod to run against him. They include former Duluth city councilor Jeff Anderson, former St. Cloud area state Senator Tarryl Clark and former 6th District Congressman Rick Nolan of Crosby.
The Carlton County DFL precinct caucus schedule is set for the following locations:
• Atkinson Township, the city of Carlton, Cloquet Wards 1 through 5, the city of Scanlon, Silver Brook Township, Twin Lakes Township, the city of Wrenshall, Wrenshall Township, and the unorganized townships of Clear Creek Progress, and Sawyer will meet at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College commons area.
• Automba Township, Kalevala Township, the city of Kettle River, Silver Township and Split Rock Township will assemble at the Kettle River Senior Center in Kettle River.
• Thomson Township, the city of Thomson and the city of Scanlon will meet at Esko’s Lincoln High School.
• The city of Barnum, Barnum Township, Blackhoof Township, Mahtowa Township and Skelton Township will caucus at Barnum High School.
• Beseman Township, the city of Cromwell, Eagle Township, Perch Lake Township, the city of Wright and the unorganized townships of Red Clover and Corona will meet at Cromwell-Wright High School.
• The city of Moose Lake and Moose Lake Township will caucus at Moose Lake High School.
• Holyoke Township will caucus at the Holyoke Town Hall.
Republicans are caucusing on the same evening in Carlton County at the following locations:
• The cities of Moose Lake, Barnum, Kettle River and the townships of Skelton, Silver, Moose Lake, Barnum, Kalevala, Mahtowa, and Atkinson will meet at the Moose Lake Library.
• The cities of Cromwell and Wright, the townships of Split Rock, Automba, Lakeview, Eagle and Beseman and the unorganized townships of Sawyer, Red Clover, Progress, and Corona will assemble at the Cromwell High School Library.
• The cities of Thomson, Wrenshall and Carlton, and the townships of Twin Lakes, Wrenshall, Silver Brook, Blackhoof, Holyoke, and the unorganized township of Clear Creek will hold their caucus at the Carlton High School Library.
• Cloquet Wards 1 thru 5, the city of Scanlon and Perch Lake Township will assemble at Cloquet High School.
• Thomson Township will caucus at Esko’s Lincoln High School.
• Just over the Pine County border, the cities of Denham, Rutledge, Sturgeon Lake and Willow River and the townships of Birch Creek, Bremen, Kettle River, Norman, Sturgeon Lake and Windemere will meet at Willow River High School.
Caucus information for the Independence Party or any other party affiliations can be found on the secretary of state’s website at http://caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us.
John Myers of Forum Communications contributed to this story.