February 2, 2010 is caucus night in Minnesota and caucuses officially convene at 7:00 p.m. With so many gubernatorial candidates on the preference ballots, voters might be as yet undecided as to whom they think should be Minnesota’s next governor. In a previous post, I’ve noted and quoted the DFL candidates from the November 24, 2009 debate, and I’ve posted links to most of the candidates’ websites here. Blogger April Knight has posted notes regarding the January 27, 2010 debate which included 20 candidates from the DFL, GOP and Independence Parties, and you can listen to the debate in its entirety at MPR Polinaut.
While helpful, voting in the straw poll is not enough to send your preferred candidate to the governor’s mansion – or even to sanction them with an endorsement. Senate District 51 Chair Jeremy Powers (DFL) reminds voters that “Today’s preferential ballot is a straw poll. It is not binding. If you want to help a particular candidate to get endorsed the thing you need to do is to become a delegate and go to the district convention where delegates to the state convention will be selected.” Many voters find the state conventions to be where the real action is, but you must caucus tonight if you want to get there.
Candidates endorsed at the state conventions are the ones whose names will be on the primary ballots later this year, supposedly primed for victory. The lack of endorsement, however, does not preclude a candidate from running in the primary. One DFLer, Mark Dayton, has chosen not to participate in the endorsement process and has released this statement:
“I am running directly in the primary election, because I believe in democracy. In a democracy, the people – all of the people – decide in an election who their leaders shall be. For an election to be truly democratic, the people must have more than one candidate to choose from. However, many DFL convention delegates believe that they alone should decide who our party’s candidate shall be, and that in the primary, the people should have only one person – their endorsed candidate – to choose from. That would not be a democratic election, according to my beliefs; and those beliefs disqualify me from consideration for endorsement by many delegates.”
Dayton’s supporters are likely to vote “uncommitted” on the preference ballot although an “uncommitted” vote does not equal a vote for Dayton. Blank ballots or ballots marked “Mark Dayton” will not be counted.
If you don’t know where to caucus, the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website has an easy tool for determining your caucus location. If you don’t know how to caucus, you should receive assistance at your caucus location or you can find more information at the Minnesota DFL, Minnesota GOP / Republican, Green Party of Minnesota and Independence Party-Minneseota websites. Caucuses offer a fun, exciting way to cast a preliminary vote for your favorite gubernatorial candidate, and sometimes even narrow the field.
But caucus night is about more than indicating your preference for Pawlenty’s replacement. Gubernatorial candidate John Marty (DFL) sums up the purpose of caucus night as “something uniquely Minnesotan – gathering on a cold night, in schools, libraries, and fire halls, to talk about the most important important issues facing our communities. Tonight we see how important each voice is to making real change.”