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Continued: Small, passionate crowds turn out for caucus night in Minnesota

Smith was untroubled by GOP criticisms of what they’ve dubbed “the better Minneapolis” ticket. “I don’t think there’s a public servant in the state that has more experience representing the whole state than Governor Mark Dayton,” she said. “He knows this state in his bones.”

A place to get a toehold

Caucuses can be a chance to get a toehold against an established incumbent for candidates like Republican David Gerson of South St. Paul, who’s running to the right against U.S. Rep. John Kline in the Second Congressional District. But Gerson’s campaign coordinator, Marianne Stebbins, knows that asking supporters to turn out for a caucus is a big ask.

“It’s not just taking five minutes to go vote. You’re taking an evening out of your life, getting a baby sitter, going and ­sitting with your neighbors for a couple of hours to hash these things out, so it’s a much bigger commitment,” said Stebbins, who coordinated 2012 GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul’s massive Minnesota caucus effort. But, she said, “Isn’t it worth taking a couple of hours on an evening to make a difference and to try to turn back the tide?”

Most GOP gubernatorial candidates made the precinct rounds, with the exception of Honour, who said in a statement earlier that the caucuses were not part of his “victory strategy,” that he had devoted few resources to it and expected to make only a ­modest showing in the poll.

Eden Prairie High School hosted nearly 60 precinct caucuses, split between DFLers and Republicans.

Seifert, who competed in the 2010 gubernatorial endorsing contest and lost, was determined to go the distance this time.

“I’m the only candidate, of the six of us, who has ever polled ahead of Mark Dayton,” Seifert said, referring to a 2010 poll. “I think some people are becoming more pragmatic about electing someone who can win. I’m conservative and electable, not just one or the other.”

McFadden, who has already said he will go to a primary, nevertheless expressed his appreciation for the caucus process. “I think the caucus is great,” he said. “It’s a truly Minnesota event where people come out in, what is it, 5 degrees out there? To exercise their rights as citizens and hear from the candidates.”

Cheryl Poling, chair of the DFL Third Congressional District, was ebullient after she successfully introduced a resolution to suspend recreational wolf hunting in Minnesota.

“We can make change,” Poling said. “This is where it happens. Make an effort. You can change the platform. This is how you change the world.”

 

Staff writers Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Eric Roper and Baird Helgeson contributed to this report. Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @RachelSB jennifer.brooks@startribune.com 651-925-5049



 

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