Tonight’s caucuses a way into politics

by Lora Pabst

Precinct caucuses are the place to be if you want to support an issue or a political candidate.

The Independent, Green, Democratic and Republican parties will have meetings in neighborhoods throughout the state at 7 p.m. today to discuss issues important to local party members and choose delegates who will advance to higher levels of party meetings, including national party conventions.

Local caucuses are the first place voters present issues for consideration to their respective party platforms. Eventually, decisions made in the precinct caucuses will affect the endorsements for party candidates.

This year elections will be for state and national representatives and senators and the Minnesota governorship.

Andrew Thomas, a geology sophomore who works for the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, said the variety of elections will make precinct caucuses exciting this year.

“A lot of kids refuse to act,” he said. “But this is a way to get involved. Candidates have to listen to you and you pick the issues.”

Students can attend the caucuses in the district they live in. The University’s East Bank is part of Minneapolis’ 2nd Ward and much of the Dinkytown area is in the 3rd Ward.

Regal Johnson, a political science and history senior who serves as the chairman of the state board of directors of MPIRG, said students should go to their precinct caucuses so they can work on what interests them.

He said students who are interested in political parties at the national level should attend precinct caucuses.

“The only way to get there is to start at the precinct level,” he said. “The people that show up have the power.”

Issues of tuition, financial aid and city ordinances that affect students can be discussed at the precinct caucuses, Johnson said.

Anthony Dew, a political science senior, attended a precinct caucus training put on by MPIRG on Monday night.

He said he is interested in advocating student housing issues. After learning about the precinct caucus process, he would consider being a delegate, he said.

Delegates elected at the precinct caucus level move on to the Senate district caucuses and possibly on to the congressional district caucuses and state party conventions.

“I’m learning things I’m gonna use for the rest of my life,” Dew said. “If students want politicians to listen to them and make decisions on their behalf, they have to get involved.”

Anyone can participate in precinct caucuses and run for a delegate position as long as he or she resides in the district, is eligible to vote Nov. 7 and generally agrees with the party’s principles.