DFLers tend to caucus business

by Jim Boyle

Elk River Democrats of Ward 1, Precinct A and B, cast their presidential straw poll for U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

No surprises there.

Photo by Jim Boyle. Skip Manoski offered an idea for a resolution during the precinct caucus and fellow caucus-goers helped him word it.

Perhaps of some surprise to those who came to the DFL caucus, all of them in this particular Elk River High School math room had the opportunity to be a delegate or alternate for the Sherburne County DFL Convention planned for March 17.

There were 14 people between the two precincts, and they watched the beginnings of democracy work in quieter surroundings than two years ago when Gov. Mark Dayton was seeking office and four years ago when Obama had taken the nation by storm.

On this night, however, the local part of the process of electing a president, senator and others began.

“One of the best things about being involved is the parades in the summer,” said Marty Lemke, the convener who brought Ward 1’s caucus to order.

Marty Lemke, a convener at this past Tuesday’s DFL caucus for Ward 1 of Elk River at Elk River High School, says caucuses require more participation than going to the polls to vote — but it’s worth it.

Lemke led the group through the process of explaining the rules for the night, a little about the county convention, a pair of resolutions that will be submitted to the county convention for a ruling and about what it’s like to be an election judge.

Lemke himself is one, and so he casts his final vote through the absentee ballot.

“I have been through the cycles a few times,” he said. “You get to see almost all of your neighbors.”

The caucus is likened to a neighborhood meeting of like-minded individuals. Those who attend cast preferential ballots in presidential election years, as Republicans did one wing over at Elk River High School in selecting Rick Santorum.

After Tuesday night there will be open houses, fundraisers, door knocking, candidate searches and the county convention. That’s where resolutions will be taken up and candidates will seek nominations. The redistricting process will be complete by then.

DFLers in one of the math rooms of Elk River High School expressed hope a good candidate would surface to knock out longtime Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar.

“He’s had a rough year,” one of the participants said. “It would be nice to see him gone.”

The woman lamented how he doesn’t return her calls. “At least Sen. (Mike) Jungbauer does. “I might not like what he has to say, but at least he calls. Hackbarth has never called back.”

Lemke said other than at parades and a couple of flyers during election years, he doesn’t hear from him, either.

Ward 1 DFLers passed two resolutions and briefly considered a third.

One was presented by Mike Tillotson of Elk River. He came prepared with one calling for a ban on corporations from being granted constitutional rights. He stated constitutional rights should be limited to biological human beings, to the agreement of every caucus-goer in the room.

Skip Manoski of Elk River came with an idea in mind, and the group helped him word it and get in on paper for authorization.

He is seeking a structure to make it easier for relatives, friends, neighbors and the community to band together to provide for the needs of those who need care over a long period of time.

It’s an idea he got while watching his sisters care for their mother who had Alzheimer’s.

“It alerted me to the fact there are other ways to provide care and on a shoestring budget,” he said.

He sees the need for something now, and adds the need will only grow as the elderly population explodes.

“People banded together when they first came (to America), and we’re going to have to do that again,” he told the Star News after the caucus was over.

The group got the resolution in a workable form for Manoski and it was approved by the group.

The issues of constitutional amendments and voter ID cards also came up but no resolutions were forwarded — out of Ward 1, anyway.

Lemke said seven of the 14 in Ward 1 signed up to be delegates.

“A lot of people don’t want to invest the time into caucuses,” Lemke said. “But it only comes around every other year. It just requires a little more participation (than voting).”