Tuesday is a big day for DFL die-hards.
Party caucuses will take place at 7 p.m. in 117 precincts around Minneapolis to select the delegates who go on to decide which candidates the DFL will endorse for mayor and the City Council.
These inside-baseball events may not get a lot of attention from the average voter, but they are a kickoff of sorts to the campaigns for the November election and could offer an early indication of how much support candidates have.
Still, mayoral campaigns seeking the party’s endorsement say many potential delegates are still undecided about who to support — and likely will be undecided even as they leave the caucuses.
“Tuesday is the starting gun, not the finishing line. [It’s] a great day to have a conversation about the city, but Wednesday the work starts of talking to undecided delegates and undecided voters, and earning their support,” said Andrew O’Leary, campaign manager for mayoral candidate Betsy Hodges.
There are 1,780 slots for city delegates who will attend a June 15 convention to vote on endorsing one of the five mayoral candidates, if they decide to back anyone. Other people vying for the endorsement are Council Members Don Samuels and Gary Schiff, former Hennepin County Commissioner Mark Andrew and former City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes.
There are another 6,946 spots for ward delegates who help choose the DFL-endorsed candidates for the council races in conventions from April 27 to May 18. All 13 seats are up for grabs this year, but the two most competitive intraparty fights are in Ward 3, where Council Member Diane Hofstede is fighting off a challenge from attorney Jacob Frey, and in Ward 10, where Council Member Meg Tuthill is defending her seat against four challengers.
Citizens can be both ward and city delegates. If more people show up than are positions available, they can become alternate delegates.
“There’s not a whole lot of business this time,” said DFL Chairman Dan McConnell. “I would think most of them would be done within a half-hour to an hour.”
Mayoral campaigns have been plugging away on the phone to woo likely caucus attendees so they can bring out more supporters than their opponents to become delegates. Because the precinct caucuses are so numerous and spread out, candidates will only have time to hit a few Tuesday evening.
Andrew, who left elected political office nearly 15 years ago, said he’ll be on the phone all weekend, talking to people who don’t remember him as well.
Perhaps the most is at stake for Schiff, the only candidate who agreed to support whichever candidate wins the DFL endorsement. In the final days before caucuses, he’ll be shaking hands at meet-and-greets at the Red Stag Supper Club and the Blue Ox Coffee Co.
Samuels’ campaign manager, Patrick Layden, said voters are digesting a lot of information and “wisely, a lot of people are taking their time to decide who they want to support.”
After Tuesday, said Cherryhomes, “then we focus in on the people that get elected delegates. And that becomes our universe for about two months.”