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Residents who attend local DFL caucuses speak for their counties

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Attendance at the Crow Wing County DFL caucuses Tuesday, Feb. 4, in the Brainerd High School cafeteria may have been somewhat sparse, but those who participated believe in the process.

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“I’ve always belonged to the Democratic party. I believe in their goals. This is where we can get information on people running now,” said Carol Wohlers, of the Breezy Point precinct.

She has attended many caucuses, and has been in the Breezy Point precinct since 1999.

In Cass County, the Pine River-Backus School media center was one caucus location, where five Cass County residents — one from Pine River, two from Pine River Township and two from Wilson Township — participated. Though the numbers were low, convener Randi Agens said this gave those five individuals a lot of power and responsibility for representing their county.

“I would encourage anyone to go to a caucus, whether it’s GOP or DFL or Green Party or wherever it is. If you’ve got 1,000 people in your township and maybe seven people show up to caucus at caucus night, you have the power of about 1,000 people to influence your party. That, I think, is where you have the most influence as an individual voter is right there at your local caucus,” Agens said.

In Crow Wing County, Peter Mann was attending his first Lake Edward precinct caucus, because he recently moved there. He attended caucuses twice before when living in Cass County.

“It’s grassroots politics at its best,” Mann said. “And I have an issue.”

Mann, citing Israel’s human rights violations, wants the state to divest its pension fund investments that it holds in bonds to Israel.

Three people attended caucuses from the Pelican Township precinct in Crow Wing County. Don Hickman has participated in caucuses for 20 years, Joe Simenstad for 10 years and his mother, Betty Simenstad, for three years, at her son’s urging.

“Democracy is a participatory sport,” Hickman said. “We deserve the people who get elected. If you stay home, shame on you.”

Joe Simenstad agreed. “Democracy begins when you show up. Go out and get involved,” he said.

Betty Simenstad said, “You need to get involved, so we did. And now we’re both election judges. When you start at the grassroots level, you realize how important every person is. And it’s fun.”

Joe added: “You have a huge voice when your caucus has only 100 people from your county. Don’t sit home and complain. Get out and get involved.”

Caucus participants elected local party officers from each precinct and shared resolutions for the party. There were no straw polls. District 10A state Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter, and District 10B state Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Baxter, each spoke at the Crow Wing County site. Both are seeking re-election this year. Ward also spoke in support of U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn.

The five Cass County residents at Pine River-Backus School used the opportunity to pass three resolutions: to agressively pursue equal wages for equal work, to oppose implementation of new commercial mineral mining operations in the absence of irrefutable evidence of sufficient redundant measures to protect and preserve the environment, and to oppose NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP or any other trade agreements whose wage, labor and environmental standards would be less than existing U.S. standards.

The Crow Wing County DFL Convention will be March 22 in the Central Lakes College cafeteria. The Cass County DFL Convention will be March 22 at Northern Lights Casino in Walker.

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