Last Tuesday provided a chance for Meeker County citizens to steer the political process.
Republican Jeff Johnson and DFLer Tim Walz were the favorite candidates Feb. 6 as dozens gathered to weigh in on the state’s governor race.
Run by local Democrat-Farmer-Laborer and Republican political parties, Meeker County precinct caucuses were the first in a series of meetings where parties endorse candidates, select delegates and set goals and values (called party platforms). A major part of precinct caucuses were preference ballots for candidates constituents wanted their political parties to support for governor.
On the Meeker County Republicans side, Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, finished with 16 in the gubernatorial straw poll.
Walz, a congressman from Mankato, was the unoffical winner for the Meeker County Democrats with 24.
Why is the caucus important?
Meeker County DFL chairwoman Pat Hansen read a statement on behalf of her party. “The upcoming campaign will not be easy, but we can win by joining together to strengthen our party, spread our progressive message and support our candidates for office. With your help, we will elect democrats for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state auditor; add to our number of Democrat members of Congress; win a majority in the Minnesota House; and continue to advance progressive agenda in Minnesota and in Washington D.C. Our work starts here tonight and will continue over the next nine months.”
“It’s the only way to have local voices heard,” said first-time DFL caucus attendee Winona Krohn of Ellsworth Township.
“You meet really smart, energetic, earnest people,” said Carole Wendt of Litchfield, also a first-time DFL caucus attendee.
“You can share info with people who have similar concerns,” Greenleaf Township resident and DFL supporter Andrea Jensen said.
Aimee Haag, a young, small, first-generation farmer in Meeker County, attended her precinct caucus to support the DFL party’s commitment to rural issues.
Larger values, Haag said, piggyback on her farming passion. She stressed the importance of small farming voices and young voices in the political process.
“I think there needs to be a very focused and concentrated effort to keep rural communities vibrant,” Haag said. “Having more farmers on the land is important to keep these communities alive and well.”
Robyn Richardson said she feels it’s important to support the Republican party, which has strong roots in Meeker County.
“It’s really important for people to get involved at the grassroots level,” said Karen Urdahl, longtime secretary for the Meeker County Republican Party and wife of local Minnesota House Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Acton Township.
“It’s where our republic starts — our grass roots,” said fellow GOP supporter Mark Johnson of Greenleaf Township.
Karen Urdahl read a statement on behalf of her husband, who was making the rounds at other area precinct caucuses. “We face a very important election; two U.S. Senate seats, the governor, 134 state House members and one state Senate spot are all on the ballot. We have some very real opportunities to elect people who have the conservative values that we hold dear. A Republican Senate, House and governor would be a dream come true — something we haven’t had since 1970. Let it be our goal to battle democrats and achieve another Minnesota miracle.”
Rep. Urdahl also announced he will seek reelection to the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Meeker County GOP vice chairman Darrin Anderson voiced support for Urdahl, telling caucus attendees that Urdahl “always puts constituents first.” He stressed the importance of having a local representative who is a voice for education and the community.
“It’s people like Rep. Urdahl that we need down there. Someone with common sense with a conservative thought process to keep this government in line and checked,” Anderson said.