Turning out the vote; County GOP chooses Trump

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Morgan Core directs people to their GOP caucus Tuesday night at Ellis Middle School. Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Morgan Core directs people to their GOP caucus Tuesday night at Ellis Middle School. Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Close to 600 Republicans turn out

About 590 Republicans turned out to two caucus locations in Mower County Tuesday evening, with Donald Trump winning Mower County while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio took Minnesota.

In Mower, Trump received 171 votes, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz 162 votes, Rubio 153 votes, Ben Carson 70 votes, John Kasich 32 votes and two write-in votes.

Early returns showed Cruz took the most votes in Austin’s GOP caucus for western Mower County residents at Austin’s Ellis Middle School, according to Mower County GOP Deputy Chair Dennis Schminke.

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At that western caucus, Cruz received 142 votes to Rubio’s 120,  Trump’s 113, Carson’s 59 and Kasich’s 30. However, Trump won handily at the eastern Mower County GOP caucus at the Grand Meadow School.

“I’m a supporter of Trump, and I wrestled with it, I wrestled with it very much,” said Maryann Bush, who caucused with her husband, Al, at Ellis. “What one gentleman said in our caucus was he’s pretty rough around the edges, but the core of his skills and the fact that he’s an outsider and his passion kind of overflows that.”

Maryann said this is one of the biggest elections she and her husband have experienced in their lifetime, but she said they came out to vote because, “We’re Americans. This is what Americans do.”

About 460 people participated at Ellis Middle School, while about 125 participated in Grand Meadow, according to Schminke. He was pleased with the turnout, which far surpassed the roughly 250 from 2012.

“Very crowded conditions in these classrooms,” he said.

“We planned for extra and it’s overwhelmed that,” he added.

Schminke credited the GOP volunteers who helped organize the caucus on Tuesday.

“Obviously there’s a huge amount of interest, it’s going to be interesting to see,” Schminke said as the Ellis caucus was getting underway Tuesday. “It is going to be as interesting to me as a local party activist to see how many people come through the door tonight as it is to see how the election turns out. The amount of interest is going to be huge. We knew it would be big, had no idea how big.”

Voter opinion varied Tuesday as the election saw rooms at Ellis filled with people from the precincts from various western Mower County cities and townships. For Vicki Bjork, who came to the caucus uncertain of who she would support, she left still uncertain. Though she voted for John Kasich, she also supports Ben Carson.

”I think this election is kind of, it’s been really controversial; it’s been confusing,” she said. “Just so many Republicans that want to be president. And I really wanted to find out what the other people in our county are thinking.”

Gary Gonnerman of Lyle speaks during the GOP caucus Tuesday night at Ellis Middle School.

Gary Gonnerman of Lyle speaks during the GOP caucus Tuesday night at Ellis Middle School.

Unfortunately for her, she said there are a lot of good opinions on all sides, so it didn’t help her to narrow down who she truly supports the most.

“A lot of people had a lot of good ideas,” Bjork said. “I’m afraid of Trump getting the nomination because I just feel like he’s so disrespectful to so many people. I’m afraid he will alienate a lot of people in our country and other leaders around the world.”

Austin community member Joshua Portz was elected precinct chairman in his precinct.

“It’s kind of our civic duty to come out here and vote and be a part of the civic process, whether we don’t see eye to eye on candidates, or no matter what it is we have to elect our leaders here, and that’s a right given to us,” Portz said. “So I think it’s really important to show up and participate.”

Portz said with all the media attention and differing opinions, everyone’s opinions count — but only if people make themselves heard.

“I just see a lot of people out here, and I get the feeling Minnesota is really good about voting,” he said. “Ever since I’ve been able to vote, the youth have showed up. … The older generation, the younger generations, the middle generations, I think Minnesota is a real American state and voting is at the heart of what we do.”

Derrik Brooks agreed.

“I would tell people to get out and vote and make sure their voices are heard, regardless of who they vote for or their opinion,” Brooks said. “If you don’t ever make a vote, you don’t get a say of what happens.”

Brooks, a supporter of Ted Cruz, was glad to see the outcome. He said four years ago at his first caucus, only about 12 people showed up to his precinct, but there were far more Tuesday.

“I’m a disabled combat veteran,” he said. “I think it’s important that we do our duty as citizens in this country to make sure that the process goes good.”

Mower County GOP results

Donald Trump 171

Ted Cruz 162

Marco Rubio 153

Ben Carson 70

John Kasich 32

Minn. GOP results

Marco Rubio 36.5%

Ted Cruz 29.7%

Donald Trump 21.3%

Ben Carson 7.3%

John Kasich 5.8%