Minnesota’s 2010 election season officially begins Tuesday, with political party precinct caucuses around the state that will start the ball rolling toward November’s gubernatorial and legislative elections.
Tuesday’s DFL and Republican Party caucuses will yield an unofficial look at the front-runners in the race to succeed Gov. Tim Pawlenty, with straw polls across the state from caucus participants showing who’s got the early edge in winning party endorsement.
The Independence Party, Minnesota’s third major political party, will debut a virtual caucus that allows people to organize politically via the Internet.
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Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s Caucus Finder
Political organizers don’t expect participation in this year’s caucuses to match the 2010 presidential year, which saw hundreds of thousands of participants turn out, many for their first experience of grassroots politics.
“We generally get 30,000 or 40,000 people statewide,” said Kristin Sosanie, DFL Party deputy communications director. “But Minnesotans have a history of good turnout and we’re optimistic this year will be no different.”
Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s Web site describes precinct caucuses as “a conversation” among neighbors about which candidates their party should endorse for the coming election, which policy and philosophical stands their party should take, who should run the party and who among them should represent their neighborhood or town or city in political conventions from the local to the statewide level where the endorsements will be made.
Attendees must be eligible to vote in the 2010 general election, live in the precinct and be in general agreement with the principles of the party whose caucus they’re attending.
Ritchie’s office provides a one-stop shop for people to find the caucus they want to attend, using the Caucus Finder Web tool.
The Secretary of State’s official Web site will also report the results of the Republican and DFL gubernatorial straw polls across the state. Ten candidates will be on the nonbinding DFL straw poll ballots statewide, and seven Republican candidates will be on their party’s ballot.
Republicans hope to capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm of the Tea Party protest movement, along with the recent influx of supporters of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential bid. Opening up the process has been a goal of the party’s new leadership, said Michael Brodkorb, state GOP deputy chairman.
“We’re working collaboratively with every facet of the party, not just on precinct caucus night but throughout the year,” he said.
Independence Party supporters have the option this year of attending physical caucuses Tuesday evening or, beginning Tuesday and continuing throughout the month, participating in an online caucus. Candidate videos, social networking tools and online forms will bring the caucus experience to people’s homes, party organizers contend.
Green Party and Constitution Party caucuses will also be taking place Tuesday evening.