Minnesota political candidates look to gain momentum at precinct caucuses

Murphy Hall, Mondale Hall and the University of Minnesota’s Armory are three of many locations hosting caucuses on Tuesday.

by Michael Achterling

State lawmakers and gubernatorial hopefuls will look to gain momentum for their election campaigns at precinct caucuses this week. 

Political party caucuses begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in precincts throughout the state. Candidates vying for the governor’s position and seats in the state House will also attempt to expose new participants to the process. 

“A lot of the work we are doing is really trying to make the [caucus] information as accessible as possible,” said Sonia Neculescu, campaign manager for Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Neculescu conducted caucus training at the University of Minnesota on Wednesday, highlighting the focuses of the process.

Political party caucuses this year have three major components: gubernatorial straw-poll, delegate selection for future party conventions and the introduction of resolutions to be voted on by the caucus.

“A lot of different campaigns and candidates are going to be talking to folks and sending folks to caucuses,” she said. “A lot of people at your caucus will be [politically] affiliated.”

For new caucus participants, the process can seem confusing and intimidating.

“It is really important for people to recognize that [young voters] are as much a part of this community as [older voters],” said Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis. 

She said participants should not hesitate to join the discussion during caucus night because every person’s opinions have “value.”

The caucus straw-poll will give Minnesotans the first chance to cast votes for their favorite gubernatorial candidate, and the candidates will have the first opportunity to see their overall standing among the electorate.

Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, a candidate for governor, said her campaign focused on engaging with voters in their own neighborhoods. She said her campaign has door-knocked, phone-banked and held in-person forums over the past year.

“I think we have to give people a reason to go to their caucuses,” Murphy said.

Murphy said she believes the most important part of the caucus process is the dialogue that’s fostered in each community.

“We literally come together to talk about how we are going to build our future,” she said.

Clare Verbeten, deputy political director for gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., said participants should stay for the whole caucus, as resolutions are passed and delegates are selected at the end. 

The delegates cast votes for federal and state representatives during the summer party conventions and decide who will represent major political parties in the November election.

Delegates also create and vote on the party platform, which comprises resolutions passed during the caucus process. The platforms represent core values of the party and can become major election priorities for each candidate.

Many of the Walz campaign staffers started their own political careers by going to caucuses when they were younger, Verbeten said.

“This is a process that really exemplifies what it means to live in a democracy and have that sort of grassroots involvement,” Omar said.

Each caucus-goer can present an idea or resolution at the caucus to be voted on. They may be written ahead of the meeting using the official forms provided by the DFL and GOP.