Kerry wins; Edwards out

John Kerry pummeled his challengers in key states and drove his biggest opponent out of the nomination race.

by Josh Verges

As Democratic voters around the country and state secured Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry’s nomination, caucuses on the University’s Minneapolis campus split their votes among three candidates.

Official totals from the caucus at Mayo Clinic Auditorium showed Rep. Dennis Kucinich with 52 votes, Kerry with 49 and Sen. John Edwards with 43.

The Grace Lutheran Church caucus in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood showed Edwards in the lead with 30 votes, Kerry with 26 and Kucinich with 24.

At 7:10 p.m. and with a slight lead in Georgia, Edwards all but conceded the election to Kerry.

“We’ve been the little engine that could and I’m proud of what we have done together,” Edwards said from his campaign headquarters in Georgia.

Rumors about Edwards’ possible drop-out spread before the presidential preference vote at the Mayo building, leading some to change their votes.

University political science professor and political analyst Larry Jacobs said Edwards’ announcement is great news for the Democrats.

“The party is unified,” he said. “John Kerry emerges largely unscathed.”

The turnout at Democratic primaries and caucuses is more significant than Edwards’ dropping out, Jacobs said.

“You may have to go back to 1964 since the Democratic Party was as energized and unified as they appear to be now,” he said.

University student Courtney Barrette said she voted for Kucinich because she heard Edwards dropped out of the race.

Alex Valen, a University-DFL member, said he planned to vote for Edwards but instead chose Kucinich.

“I was a John Edwards fan up until five minutes ago,” he said. “I am going with my heart.”

More than 100 people, mostly students, attended the Marcy-Holmes caucus.

University law student Ben Rudolf, who was voted precinct caucus chairman, said he voted for Edwards and was disappointed by the senator’s rumored concession during the caucus.

“I think it’s a shame he is dropping out right now, at least given the results of this precinct,” he said.

Edwards won that precinct by four votes. Voters did not know he conceded until after they cast all votes.

“It would have been great for the campaign to go on longer, because the longer it goes on the more the Democrats are in the news,” Rudolf said.

University political science sophomore Sarah Hinde was undecided until she voted for Edwards at the caucus.

Hinde said she was disappointed with his concession, but hoped Edwards would be Kerry’s running mate.

Edwards denied at a debate Sunday that he was vying for the vice presidency. Campaign officials from both sides said Tuesday morning the candidates were months away from considering a possible partnership.

At Mayo Clinic Auditorium, political science senior Dave Townsend said he was surprised Edwards did not wait until Wednesday to make his announcement.

“He’s trying to cut a deal to get on the vice-presidential ticket,” Townsend said. He said he voted for Edwards anyway.

At the Marcy-Holmes precinct, caucus convener Jim Kelly said he was stunned by the student turnout.

“Normally, we would have less than 20 people at this caucus,” the six-year Marcy-Holmes resident said.

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said she was amazed to see such a big turnout for the election.

“This is just like it was in ’68 to ’72,” she said, referring to the high student turnout.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Mike Erlandson said students historically have low participation in caucuses and elections.

“If they actually do show up and participate, their impact is significant,” he said.

Paul Scheurer, the convener for the Mayo caucus, said he was given only 25 official ballots for the 154 in attendance. Most voters submitted makeshift ballots made of notebook paper.

Several caucus-goers at Mayo Clinic Auditorium did not understand the voting system. One student, after putting his name and address on a sign-up sheet asked a friend, “Is anything after this?”

His friend replied, “You haven’t done anything yet.”

Campaign officials said Minnesota was a prime target for the Democratic hopefuls in the weeks leading up to last night.

Erlandson said early Tuesday that Kerry was aiming to win all 10 states and become the nominee.

Edwards needed to win in a few states and tie or come close in others to keep the race going another week, Erlandson said.

Republican caucus

At a Republican caucus, University students Amanda Hutchings and Mike Lovas said their friendship will remain intact – despite the fact they are running against each other for the Republican nomination to represent state House district 59B.

“It’s tough because you are competing against each other, but you also have to know that you’re after the same goal,” said Lovas, a political science senior. “The main goal is to defeat Rep. Kahn.”

Both told Republicans gathered at Minneapolis’ Van Cleve Community Center that their experience prepared them to best represent the district.

Both College Republicans members said they would support whomever was nominated.

Party delegates will nominate one of them at the endorsing convention March 27.

– Patricia Drey contributed to this article.