The Farmington Caucus

I convened the Farmington, Castle Rock, Empire and Eureka caucuses last night. Between the nine precincts, only 29 people attended. The voting results were:

Rybak – 7 – 24.1%
Kelliher – 6 – 20.7%
Marty – 5 – 17.2%
Thissen – 5 – 17.2%
Uncommitted – 3 – 10.3%
Bakk – 1 – 3.4%
Entenza – 1 – 3.4%
Gaertner – 1 – 3.4%
Kelley – 0
Montez – 0
Rukavina – 0
Savior – 0

I was surprised how low the turnout was, but I am not surprised by the results for the most part. Statewide, I expected the race to be between Rybak and Kelliher, and that proved true.

Statewide numbers with almost 80% reporting:

Rybak – 21.9%
Kelliher – 20.1%
Uncommitted – 14.6%
Marty – 9.6%
Rukavina – 7.2%
Thissen – 7.2%
Entenza – 6.7%
Bakk – 6.2%
Kelley – 4..2%
Gaertner – 2.1%

A couple of negative observations:

Entenza’s number seemed surprisingly low. I expected him to finish third or forth. That looks bad. Now I see why Dayton didn’t include his name in the straw poll.

Rukavina put out a statement saying he was humbled by the support. I assume he felt humbled in a positive way. Finishing in the middle of the pack with 7% does not seem like it should be humbling to me.

Gaertner has decided to run in the primary. Why?

Thissen’s results were disappointing. I expected Paul to compete with Entenza for third or forth.

As much as I like Steve Kelley, the endorsement will not fall into his lap with this group of candidates like it almost did a few years ago. Kelley should consider dropping out too.

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4 thoughts on “The Farmington Caucus”

  1. Sorry to hear about the turnout down there MNdem. I hope you are right and those candidates below the top two drop out.

    What do you think is the significance of almost 15% uncommitted. Are they Dayton supporters?

  2. “Only 29” may not be that unusual.

    I warned that the SD-26 Special Election of Mike Parry as a “canary in the coal mine” prelude for the future… the concern was not that the MN-GOP would retain the seat but instead that the Parry philosophy of “15% cut in state spending” compounded with MDE attacks on Jason Engbrecht would encourage the TeaParty grassroots activists to trudge through the cold to make their voices heard. In the end, it was clear that some DFL-leaning precincts underperformed in terms of turn out, while more conservative areas had higher turn out.
    Apathy is a central factor when only a minority of voters participates.

    Fast forward to the caucuses.
    Look at the turnout numbers … yes statewide, the DFL had more people attend than the MN-GOP but I hear a chorus of canaries.

    In the 2008 First District Congressional Election, Tim Walz won every county. One would think that would encourage people to attend the caucus.
    Let’s look at some of the counties in and around the First District :
    Blue Earth (Mankato) Democrats 206; Republicans 252
    Brown (New Ulm) Democrats 73; Republicans 143
    Faribault Democrats 28; Republicans 52
    LeSueur Democrats 76; Republicans 139
    Martin (Fairmont) Democrats 33; Republicans 133
    Nicollet (St. Peter) Democrats 118; Republicans 144
    Olmsted (Rochester) Democrats 175; Republicans 424
    Steele (Owatonna) Democrats 87; Republicans 108
    Waseca Democrats 40; Republicans 72
    In every one of these counties, the Republicans drew bigger crowds … and the DFL was helped in Brown County when a teacher offered students extra credit to attend the caucuses. {Sidenote : I love the resolution the kids offered; “State government must not take public school funds to balance the state budget because schools need the money for expenses and reserves.”)

    And as seen by Roy Srp’s performance in the SD-26 Special Election, the IP can have an impact. Srp took a portion of the vote that Engbrecht would have had to capture in order to win the election … Srp won the City of Waseca’s precincts pushing Engbrecht to a distant third.
    From Districts 23, 24 and 21B (in the First Congressional District which features Mankato) drew 66 Independence Party members to their caucus — more than established DFL party in a number of counties … repeating Faribault had 28 DFLers, Martin had 33, Waseca had 40, and barely beat Brown which had 73, LeSueur at 76 and Steele at 87. And, the Indpendence Party has an ongoing online caucus for anyone that did not attend in person.

    The MN-GOP maybe more exhibiting more enthuasism … somwhat because of pent-up anger finally being released now they no longer have to protect/defend/accept Bush policies … but also because they have many challengers compeating for the state legislature (and against Tim Walz … I have lost track of the number but it might be up to six now.) Although they may be compeating against one within the party, in the end just like in SD-26 where Parry had a number of more qualified candidates being consider for endorsement, it’s a matter that the MN-GOP will show up in November.
    The DFL needs to put up a candidate that will not only appeal to natural DFL base but also to the independent voters.
    The Parry victory was a lost opportunity for the DFL. Open seats don’t happen enough, and it is more a concern that someone with such hardcore beliefs will push the legislation away from being enacted. Sadly, these legislature seats are perfect grooming positions for future Congressional candidates … Engbrecht could have been a great candidate against John Kline in a few years. Conversely, the TEAparty grassroots movement is putting their plan in action. The National Precinct Alliance mantra is this: take the precinct, take the state, take the party — and force it to nominate conservatives rather than people they see as liberals in Republican clothing. It worked for Bachmann. These precinct low-level positions come with the ability to vote for the party executives who endorse candidates, approve platforms and decide where the party spends money. National Precinct Alliance estimates that about 60 percent of the roughly 150,000 local Republican committee seats are vacant and can be filled by essentially showing up. That’s why when Rochester’s Olmstead County gets 424 participants, there should be concern. IMO, Rochester was a key factor in Pawlenty winning the governorship … and it will be a factor in 2010.

    Second, the straw poll results are pretty meaningless.
    Based on a number of reports – especially in the DFL caucuses – there were not sufficient number participants to fill all the slots for county conventions, the straw poll will not reflect who the delegates end up voting for. The overall impact of the Minneapolis precincts may have provided RT Rybak with his win. It would be interesting to see who won what caucus group … like the Presidency, Rybak could be Gore and won the overall vote, but MAK could have won the Electoral College vote. Rybak’s win needs to be tempered by how the final delegates are selected to the State Convention … the straw poll may give Rybak a high tally in Mpls which will only generate a fixed number of delegates to the State Convention … but in the lesser attended counties who will get their share of delegates ? For example in New Ulm, the winner was “Undecided” followed by MAK and then Rybak … by the time the State Convention delegates are chosen, the few delegates from New Ulm will eventually be part of the 5 delegates from Brown County that endorse the final nominee … even though Rybak got 16% of the New Ulm straw poll vote, he may get all five state delegates or he may get none … or any number in between. It’s still anybody’s game.
    I was struck by how well Tom Bakk performed in Mankato …. coming in second with 29 votes beating Rybak, undecided and all the others … MAK won the caucus with 65 but that is her “home” turf as the delegates will include a few that are pretty sure to hold with her through the convention since her siblings were elected as delegates … in the end, don’t be surprised if all 14 delegates from Blue Earth County end up in MAK’s pocket. Bakk may have picked up support since he spent some time in Mankato … pressing the flesh is still the best way to get votes.

    Now that the straw poll results are being finalized, the process moves forward.

    For the delegates to the county conventions, it’s time to look not only at the candidate that you prefer but also at the others with only one question in mind …who can win in November. If your still firm on Paul Thissen and feel that he is the one that can win, by all means fight for him through to the State Convention (assuming that you are a delegate.)
    For the candidates, it might be appropriate to re-evaluate their options. If they cannot see a path to the endorsement, would it be time to raise the argument that the caucus system failed to engage the party faithful ? Consider that the November election will bring more than 2,000,000 voters to select the next governor, should it be based on the wishes of a small pool of voters that was whittled down from less than 35,000 caucus participants ? Mark Dayton, Matt Entenza and Susan Gaertner have already indicated that they will pursue a primary campaign. I don’t automatically think they should do that without first going through the State Convention process, but if any candidate can carry a significant level of support to the convention, they should consider having their name on the ballot. The candidate must also be honest with himself/herself … if the party faithful are not impressed, give it up. Personally, I would like to see Thissen change his stance and go forward in the primary while Dayton needs to do what he did in 2008 … look at the internal polls and if his negatives are so strong, drop out and let the DFL put forth a candidate that can win.
    The end result should be that the party puts out a candidate that will reflect the positions of the political party but also appeal to the independent voters that will ultimately decide this election.

    Thus far, the MN-GOP and DFL candidates have not excited the public. Campaign rhetoric may excite the party faithful, it will not impress the independent voters. Mike Parry got away with his “15% statewide cut” as election theme, but once elected he asked for time “to get his feet wet”. The next governor will not have that time.
    I am heartened by a recent Mankato Free Press editorial challenging the candidates to “get real” on offering budget solutions.
    On a pre-caucus MPR radio forum, candidates were asked about what issues might be common ground with the other party. The DFL candidates were able to point to some common interests while except for one MN-GOP candidate, they offered nothing … he cited Thissen’s concern with elder care.
    The opening this time could be for the Independence Party. Each party should be wary of a Tom Horner IP campaign … I could be wrong, but having listened to him for years, I think he will assume the mantra of addressing Minnesota’s neglected long-term budget problems and offer voters someone who will be forced to work with both parties.

  3. “These precinct low-level positions come with the ability to vote for the party executives who endorse candidates, approve platforms and decide where the party spends money.”

    You might want to learn how the process actually works.
    Party executives are elected by delegates who are themselves elected at BPOU conventions. Precinct positions have very little influence on anything.

    1. Hi Sam,
      Thanks for reading my comment. The reference to precinct positions was a statement from the National Precinct Alliance. I should have reworked the statement to how Minnesota’s system works … yet the intent is clear … stack the precinct caucuses with grassroot activists that eventually rise in influence. The National Precinct Alliance intent is to weed out the MN-GOP … which may be the reason why the Independence Party is attracting former Republicans … Tom Horner (the former chief of staff for Republican U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger ) Joe Repya (delegate to the Republican National Conventions), Mark Miller (2008 Republican candidate for Congress – First District) …

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