Super Tuesday coming to Austin, Mower Co.

Mower County Republican volunteers take part in a training session in preparation for Tuesday’s caucuses. Photo provided

Mower County Republican volunteers take part in a training session in preparation for Tuesday’s caucuses. Photo provided

Mower County and Minnesota residents will have their say toward selecting the next Democratic and Republican candidates for president on Tuesday.

Unlike other states’ primaries, Minnesota uses a caucus system where residents who are eligible to vote in November will gather at schools and community centers to vote in presidential preference polls and also conduct some party business, like selecting delegates for state conventions. Caucus attendees can also make impromptu pitches, urging others to join them in supporting their candidate.

Mower Republicans and Democrats both expect turnouts to increase from previous years. National rule changes moved the Minnesota caucus one month later to Super Tuesday — March 1. Another change is that this year results count for the binding of delegates to the national convention levels.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson are this year’s choices. On the Democrat side, Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton are the top two candidates.

“It’s probably never been more important and Minnesota has maybe never been as positioned, at least in recent times, to really be part of the mix,” said Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey last week.

In addition to setting the presidential candidate in motion, resolutions for amendments to party platform, conduct a presidential preference poll and organize the party at the precinct level.

Registration for the Mower County caucuses will start at 6 p.m. and the caucus will begin at 7 p.m.

Republicans

Mower County GOP Deputy Chair Denny Schminke said caucuses are run by the parties and are viewed commonly as the essence of grassroots politics.

“It’s your opportunity to jump in and be a part of it if you want,” Schminke said. “The other thing that goes on at the caucuses is it’s kind of where things get organized at the precinct level.”

Schminke also stressed the caucus is not the same as a general election, because there’s minimal involvement from the larger government bodies. The caucus is held by the parties and volunteers.

Mower County’s Republicans will gather at two locations: Ellis Middle School, 1700 Fourth Ave. SE, Austin, and Grand Meadow School, 710 Fourth Ave. NE, Grand Meadow.

ah.01.28.aSchminke said 300 people attended the Republican caucus during the last presidential election, but he’s expecting a larger turnout this time around, as turnout has been up in other caucuses and primaries thus far in other states.

Downey said the party is making a big push to prepare for a potentially record turnout next Tuesday, noting that it “certainly appears” that untraditional candidates like Trump, a businessman, on the Republican side and Sanders, a Vermont senator, are driving turnout in other states.

While Schminke admitted it’s been an unconventional election year with candidates like Trump, he said he’s happy the process is a grueling one that plays out over several states.

“Nobody likes uncertainty and we just want it all decided. Let’s let the process work out,” Schminke said. “It is a long tough road and it’s tough on the candidates, but I want to be tough on the candidates, because it’s not easy being President of the United States.”

He said to anyone who doesn’t know if they should caucus or not, it’s the best opportunity to make your voice heard and as close as you can get to candidates and party officials.

Schminke said Mower GOP members appreciate the school systems letting them use their facilities. He asks caucus-goers to be respectful of classrooms and equipment.

Residents voting at Grand Meadow for eastern Mower County include the cities of Dexter, Elkton, Grand Meadow, LeRoy, Racine, Sargeant and Taopi, along with the townships of Bennington, Clayton, Dexter, Frankford, Grand Meadow, LeRoy, Lodi, Marshall, Pleasant Valley, Racine and Sargeant.

Residents voting in western Mower County at Ellis include cities of Adams, Austin (all three wards with two precincts each), Brownsdale, Lyle, Mapleview, Rose Creek and Waltham along with the townships of Adams, Austin, Lansing, Lyle, Nevada, Red Rock, Udolpho, Waltham and Windom.

The caucus will break up into smaller precinct groups so business can be conducted without the noise of other groups. A sheet with classroom locations of each precinct will be available at the schools. People are encouraged to know their precinct before attending the caucus.

The caucus will also elect several delegates ahead of the Republicans’ Mower County convention on March 12. People interested in being a delegate can visit http://mngop.com/precinct-caucuses/.

Democratic-Farm-Labor

Mower County DFL Chair Wanda Lunning said she’s heard people coming out in support of both Clinton and Sanders ahead of the March 1.

While she’s heard Sanders is fast-taking over Minnesota, she added many Democratic officials are promoting Clinton because they feel she will have a better chance of winning a general election.

Lunning just hopes her party finds the best person.

“I hope that we get the best candidate for the job, whether it’s Bernie or Hilary,” she said.

DFL Party chairman Ken Martin stressed that caucuses are great entry points for civic engagement, allowing caucus-goers to talk with their neighbors about important issues and help both parties build their ranks.

All Mower County precincts will meet in the Ruby Rupner Auditorium at the Hormel Nature Center, 1304 21st St. NE, Austin.

Registration will start at 6 p.m. and the caucus will convene at 7 p.m.

Lunning said they will also select many delegates to move on to the regional and state conventions. People who wish to be delegates do not need to be present to get elected. They only have to submit a form stating they want to be a delegate. The form can be found online at www.dfl.org/about-our-party/caucuses-conventions/.

Volunteering is a big part of making the caucuses a success. Volunteers are trained beforehand and ready to go on caucus night.

The DFL party is always looking for more volunteers and they’re seeking a new chair, as Lunning said medical issues are keeping her from spending more time with the party activities.

“[We have] to have the volunteers who are willing to convene the meeting to get it going, and you got to have them willing to take the time and training so they know what they’re getting into,” she said. “Because there’s still things I’m learning, and I’ve worked directly with the planning of the caucuses for at least the last six.”

Lunning said the main advantage to the caucus is it’s the beginning of the entire election process and that’s where having the most impact on issues will happen.

The Mower DFL convention will be at Ruby Rupner starting at 1 p.m. on April 10.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

To vote in the March 1 caucus you must:

•Be eligible to vote in the November general election; teens can vote in the caucus if they will be 18 by Nov. 8

•Caucus within the precinct you live in

•Generally agree with party principles and support party candidates in the election

•Not participate in more than one party caucus in any given election year

•Be present to vote in the caucus, no absentee ballots will be available

However, people do not have to prove you’re a Republican or Democrat, and votes will be private

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