Hands-on politics: My first caucus

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by Crystal Holzer, February 7 2008 • At a little after 6 pm on February 5th my car pulled into the Mounds View High School parking lot. I should have car-pooled. It was already near capacity, and the lobby of the high school was bustling with people trying to find their precinct meeting location.

New Brighton (my city) had all four of our precincts meeting in the school’s auditorium. There was a short line outside of the auditorium at this point, so I was able to sign in quickly. I sat down at the rows of theater seats designated to my precinct, and waited for my mom to show up. She has liked Obama for over a year and I told her that she could help him get closer to office if she went to our caucus and cast her presidential preference ballot for him. By the time she got there, signing in was hectic- with a line ‘to the lobby’ for New Brighton. They ran out of sign-in sheets, so my mom had to wait until they printed more.

The auditorium began to sound like an auction, but with a dozen announcers. Our precinct began to cast presidential preference ballots so those who did not want to deal with other party business could go home. I asked some of the louder people if they needed me to help with anything. Most of the time I stood out of the way. People began to complain about how chaotic it was, ‘this is what I don’t like about this party,’ one woman said.

I was asked to count how many people had signed up already. I would count through a few sheets before ‘Here’s another!’ was shouted at me as the new, full sheet was waved in front of me. I was able to hand off this work when my precinct began to move through the agenda.

We did not have a chair at the caucus that night, so we elected a temporary one first. We also elected a chair to serve a two-year term, as well as two associate chairs to back him up. We went over the process of caucusing, presidential preference ballots, and we began to talk about delegates. Our precinct was allowed to send 56 delegates to the next level, so we decided to send around a sign up sheet with an alternate ‘option’ to cut people out if more than 56 people signed up.

While we were signing up, Rep. Kate Knuth talked to us about the historic turn out. I met Knuth a year before at MSCSA’s 2007 Advocacy Day and was able to talk to her in the lobby of the high school before the caucus began. Knuth went to Irondale, the same high school where I graduated from, and is not much older than I am. Her dedication, success, and intelligence has been very inspiring to me as a student in her district. Also, Senator Satveer Chaudhary spoke, thanking those who turned out for the caucus that evening for their participation.

I was able to sign up to be one of the 56 delegates attending the next level of this process on the 8th of March. I am excited to learn more about the political process, see the resolutions my precinct approved continue on, and be a part of this historic change that is occurring right now in our country.

One of those resolutions I want to advance is one that I wrote. Being aware of the rising cost of tuition for students within the public higher education system in Minnesota, I was able to have my precinct encourage the our state to better fund public higher education. My resolution is vague, but I hope it will be integrated with and strengthened by other public higher education resolutions from around the state. After I presented my resolution, I sat down and realized I was not nervous while I in front of everyone. This surprised me, because I usually have ‘stage fright’. I did not even think about the fact I was talking to so many people until after I did. I could have been calm because I believed in my resolution, I could have been calm because I was talking my neighbors. I am not sure.

This entry will close with some numbers I collected:

* My precinct passed 23 resolutions.

* My precinct was able to fill all 59 delegate spots to the Senate District 50 DFL Meeting on the 8th of March.

* Our precinct chose Obama over Clinton nearly 2:1 in presidential preference ballots.

* The last time my precinct caucused, there were 69 people.

* We projected around 100 to 120 people from my precinct to attend this caucus.

* There were 327 people signed up in my precinct at the 2008 caucus.

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