Local DFLers follow statewide trend, pick Walz for governor

    Precinct caucus participation numbers are typically down in years lacking a presidential election, and that was the general consensus Tuesday evening at the Polk County DFL Precinct Caucus in the Highland School cafeteria, where around 21 people gathered to officially commence with the 2016 campaign and election cycle.

    One of the primary functions of the evening is to conduct a straw poll for the DFL preference for Minnesota governor. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is not seeking another term, and a wide open field on both sides of the aisle is hoping to replace him.

    At caucuses statewide Tuesday, Tim Walz was the top preference, and that was also the case at Highland, where Walz garnered 13 votes, easily outdistancing Rebecca Otto and Erin Murphy, who each got a trio of votes, and Chris Coleman and Paul Thissen, each of whom garnered a single tally.

    Cynthia Ansbacher convened Tuesday’s DFL caucus. Relatively new to the process herself, Ansbacher encouraged DFLers to get involved and stay involved.

    “I encourage you to volunteer even in the simplest of ways,” she said to the gathered group. “You may think you’re not needed or wonder ‘Why am I here?’ but then you’ll find out that you’re needed in ways you never even imagined.”

    Another task at caucuses is for attendees to discuss and vote on various issue-related resolutions that they would like to see added to the party’s official platform. At the most populated table Tuesday, Shauna Reitmeier, executive director of Northwestern Mental Health Center in Crookston, said they voted to raise the profile of mental health by putting it on par with other health care services that receive attention and coverage.

    “Mental health is in the platform in a very general way, but we want parity for mental health,” Reitmeier said. “It’s just as important as any other health care service.”

    The group also advanced a resolution on the need to establish a direct path to citizenship for the DACA “Dreamers.” Reitmeier said immigration is also vaguely included in the DFL platform but needs to be more specific.

    “Our community has been supported with a number of immigrants,” Reitmeier said. “We have a history as a migrant community and these hard-working people need a direct path to citizenship.”

    Ansbacher said the resolutions discussed and voted on at caucuses typically don’t get the attention of the straw vote for governor, but they are significant in their own right.

    “It’s exciting,” she said. “You can make a difference right here at your table.”

    Next up for the DFLers is the Senate District 1 Multi-County Convention on Saturday, Feb. 10 at Northland Community & Technical College in Thief River Falls. Registration begins at 1 p.m., followed by the start of the convention at 2 p.m.