GOP: Choice between idealism, electability

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2008 - 1:43 AM

Jeanean Shepherd was determined to create a few sparks at her Republican caucus, even though she had yet to make her choice for president.

Shepherd, 75, had flashing red, white and blue lights on her fingertips and vowed "to wave these every time I hear something I like."

The caucus veteran echoed many at Burnsville High School, who were choosing a candidate for pragmatic rather than philosophical reasons.

"I know who I want to vote for -- Huckabee," she said, referring to the former Arkansas governor. "But I've been told I should vote for who could beat the Democrats."

From the early count in Burnsville, that appeared to be Mitt Romney, who was far ahead throughout Dakota County, where Burnsville is located.

More than 600 people jammed into the District 40A caucus, exceeding any turnout in memory.

Romney carried the precinct with 45 percent of the votes cast -- more than doubling totals for John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul.

Those who spoke in favor of Romney talked about character, family values and leadership skills. Several small business owners thought he'd be best for the economy. One potential delegate said that McCain, the Republican front-runner, "doesn't have the temperament to be president."

Paul also had a fervent following in Burnsville, which included Carey Dissmore, 40, of Burnsville. "He's a strong constitutionalist, and I think the Constitution has taken a real beating," Dissmore explained.

Down the hall, Shepherd waved her fingertip lights, then voted her conscience, after all.

"I voted for Huckabee," she said proudly.

Jon Tevlin • 612-673-1702

Doug Dufrene gets really peeved when he hears about illegal immigrants getting subsidized health care or driving cars without fear of getting arrested.

When he cast his vote for president at his GOP caucus in Maplewood, it was based on the candidates' position on immigration.

"You'd think I live in New Mexico," said Dufrene, 51, of Maplewood. "But it's just so basic. To give people benefits just encourages them to come here. And law enforcement can't arrest them. What's that about?"

And so Dufrene cast his ballot for Huckabee, because Huckabee wasn't McCain -- who spearheaded an immigration reform proposal many Republicans consider "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.

Dufrene was among a record 416 people who voted at John Glenn Middle School in Maplewood. Romney won the precinct with 43 percent of the vote to 22 percent for McCain. Huckabee received 18 percent and Paul 15 percent.

While the economy, the war in Iraq and abortion were on the minds of voters here, illegal immigration was typically at the top -- or near the top -- of their major concerns.

Resolutions demanding construction of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and tougher immigration crackdowns locally, circulated among caucuses. Conversations about "illegals" could be heard in the hallway of the Maplewood school.

Larry Lyon, a retired engineer from North St. Paul, was monitoring candidates' stands on immigrants.

"Let them come the way that we used to," Lyon said, "and learn English."

Jean Hopfensperger • 651-298-1553

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