Santorum carries Elk River in Republican preference poll

•Click here to read more about the overall Republican straw poll results in Minnesota.

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

One of the ballots cast for Rick Santorum at Elk River's Republican precinct caucuses Tuesday night.

For a majority of Republicans attending Elk River’s precinct caucuses on Tuesday night, Rick Santorum was their man.

Santorum carried Elk River with 141 votes in the non-binding presidential preference poll taken during the caucuses.

Ron Paul was second with 82 votes followed by Newt Gingrich with 24 and Mitt Romney with 22.

The results came as a surprise to both Matt Stevens and Nick Zerwas.

Stevens organized the Republican precinct caucuses in Elk River; Zerwas was the convenor for one of the Elk River precincts.

In the precinct Zerwas convened, Santorum tallied 24 votes, far outpacing the other three candidates.

“I figured he would pick up steam. I did not expect such a large win,” Zerwas said.

Greg Rierson (standing) and Goran Mitrovich counted presidential preference ballots at one of the Republican precinct caucuses in Elk River.

Santorum also finished first statewide in the poll with 45 percent of the vote, followed by Paul, 27 percent;  Romney, 17 percent and Gingrich, 11 percent, as the process to select a Republican candidate to challenge President Barack Obama this fall continues to unfold.

More than 300 people attended Elk River’s Republican caucuses, held at Elk River High School. Stevens said that was a great turnout, and higher than the 2008 caucus night attendance of about 250.

A number of resolutions were passed that night including ones supporting the “right to work,” supporting a version of the Second Amendment for Minnesota’s Constitution and one to strike references to gambling in the party’s platform, Stevens said. The party platform now opposes an expansion of gambling.

 

‘It’s just interesting’

Nick Zerwas was the convenor of Elk River’s Republican precinct caucus for Ward 1, Precinct 1A.

He has been a convenor before, and has been involved in politics from a young age. He currently serves on the Elk River City Council.

Zerwas traces his interest in politics to his childhood, attending Elk River City Council meetings with his dad, Tom, now retired from his job as Elk River police chief.

“I fell in love with it,” Nick Zerwas said. “I was just really, really interested at a young age in participating, looking at it as a form of service.”

The city council work and his involvement in politics are a passion, he said, and a way to do something for the community.

He likes politics and the precinct caucuses because he gets to meet all kinds of people and learn about the foundations of their political beliefs.

“It’s just interesting,” he said.

Forty-one people attended the caucus he convened on Tuesday, and every desk was taken in the Elk River High School classroom where it was held.

Nick Zerwas held up one of the resolutions being considered during the Ward 1, Precinct 1A Republican caucus.

As he opened the meeting, Zerwas explained how he represents Ward 1 on the Elk River City Council. “If you brought some rotten fruit to throw, now would be the time to do that,” he joked.

Early on, small yellow presidential preference ballots were passed out for people to cast their vote for a presidential candidate. Santorum was the strong favorite in that precinct, winning 24 votes to eight for Romney, six for Paul and three for Gingrich.

The group also chose delegates and alternates to the Senate district convention, elected Greg Rierson as precinct chair and passed five resolutions.

After meeting for just over an hour, the business was concluded and the group adjourned.

For Rierson, it was the first time he had attended a precinct caucus. He was motivated to be there after going to a rally for Ron Paul the night before at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

“It was informative,” said Rierson, who was wearing two Ron Paul buttons on his jacket. “I wasn’t sure how the process all works so it was interesting.”

Goran and Laurie Mitrovich also attended the Ward 1, Precinct 1A caucus.

Not every state has precinct caucuses, Goran said, so participating in one is not something everyone gets to do.

“It’s an important election this year,” Laurie added. “Obama has to go.”

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