The Minneapolis political season shifts to a higher gear next week when the DFL Party holds its precinct caucuses, to be followed by other parties that hope to elect candidates.

DFL caucuses will select delegates on March 3 for ward-level endorsing conventions to be held between March 14 and April 25, with a stripped-down city convention planned for May 16. The party caucuses begin at 7 p.m.

Green, Independence and Republican endorsements will be awarded later, according to party representatives.

DFLers now hold all but two of the 25 elected seats in city government in Minneapolis. The exceptions are Second Ward Council Member Cam Gordon and Park Commissioner Annie Young, both Greens. A Green mayoral candidate polled nearly 14 percent of the 2005 mayoral vote.

DFL caucuses will elect delegates to ward conventions to bestow City Council endorsements and to the city endorsing convention. There's expected to be more competition for the latter because it has only 1,244 delegates, far fewer than unwieldy conventions of past years and far fewer than the 4,770 to be elected to 13 ward conventions.

Mayor R.T. Rybak hopes to gain the citywide convention's endorsement, despite having been elected twice without it. He'll be challenged by Bob Miller, director of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program. That convention also considers Park Board and Board of Estimate and Taxation endorsements.

The incumbentless First and 10th wards are shaping up as the most competitive for City Council endorsement, with four candidates emerging in the First and three in the 10th. Meanwhile, incumbents Gary Schiff and Sandra Colvin Roy also face challenges in their wards for DFL endorsement. And Schiff faces at least one and possibly two Green challengers.

Greens won't be holding caucuses but will consider endorsements at a citywide convention on May 9 at North Regional Library, 1315 Lowry Av. N. Republicans haven't elected a party-endorsed candidate for city office since 1997. They'll hold off on considering endorsements until after the July 7-21 candidate filing period.

The Independence Party will use a combination of online participation and March 28 caucuses to shape its platform, with the caucus selecting delegates to an endorsing convention expected to occur in mid-May. Spokesman Peter Tharaldson said the online March 9-31 caucus offers a way for people with work or family demands to participate in shaping the party platform. He said it also gives candidates a place to announce their intention to seek party endorsement.

With city government planning this fall to use ranked-choice voting, in which voters rank candidates in order of preference, DFLers are offering ward conventions the option of that voting method when at least three candidates emerge.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438