A scene from a Minneapolis DFL caucus in 2013.  Credit: File photo

A scene from a Minneapolis DFL caucus in 2013. Credit: File photo

Get ready to caucus

Updated: April 12, 2016 - 10:49 am

High turnout is expected for the state’s precinct caucuses March 1.

The caucuses signal the start of the 2016 election in Minnesota. Political parties organize caucuses to give people the opportunity to discuss party issues and priorities and vote for delegates to support political candidates.

The competitive race between presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton who are vying for the Democratic nomination will likely drive many to DFL caucuses in Minneapolis, a longtime stronghold for the party.

Some have raised concerns that party leaders haven’t secured enough spaces in South Minneapolis neighborhoods given the anticipated increase in turnout. DFL Chairman Ken Martin said local party leaders are working on securing new venues.

“We could see a record turnout at Minnesota’s caucuses on Super Tuesday,” he said. “It’s a real unknown. We instructed all of our county unit chairs and Senate district officers to prepare for very high turnout, and that’s what we’re prepared for.”

He predicted 150,000 to 175,000 people would attend DFL caucuses.

Sanders and Clinton recently traveled to the Twin Cities for the DFL’s annual Humphrey-Mondale dinner in St. Paul on Feb. 12. Before the dinner, Sanders also attended Neighborhood Organizing for Change’s forum on issues facing black communities at Patrick Henry High School.

Secretary of State Steve Simon is urging all Minnesotans to get involved in the election process.

“Our vote is our voice, and I encourage all Minnesotans to go out and caucus on March 1 and make their voices heard,” Simon said. “This is an important election year in Minnesota and going to a caucus is a great way for Minnesotans to show support for their preferred candidates, raise an important issue, and meet people in their community.”

To participate in a caucus, Minnesotans must be eligible to vote in the November general election, live in the precinct and generally agree with the principles of the party hosting the caucus, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Besides the presidential race, the 2016 ballot in Minneapolis will include races for U.S. House (District 5), the state Legislature, Minnesota Supreme Court and Minneapolis School Board.

In Minneapolis, one noteworthy race to watch is the battle for the state House 60B seat. The district includes Nicollet Island and neighborhoods near the University of Minnesota.

Longtime legislator Phyllis Kahn faces competition from Mohamud Noor and Ilhan Omar for the DFL endorsement.

Noor, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, ran against Kahn in 2014 and lost to her in the primary election.

The caucus for the race erupted in violence Feb. 4, 2014 at the Brian Coyle Community Center, leaving Omar injured. She was serving as vice chair for Senate District 60 at the time.

The incident didn’t deter her from remaining active in politics. A self-described “extreme extrovert,” Omar said she’s running to unify the district and increase opportunities for community engagement and co-governing.

She currently serves as director for the Women Organizing Women Network, a group advocating for first- and second-generation immigrant women in Minnesota to get more involved in their communities. Previously she served as an aide to City Council Member Andrew Johnson (Ward 12).

“We need a new representative with a new voice and a new perspective,” she said, adding that given the significant racial disparities in the state, it’s time for new leadership to address the problem.

Her top priorities include pushing for ways to make college more affordable, tackling disparities in education through increased access to early education programs, advocating for reforms in the criminal justice system to end mass incarceration and pushing the University of Minnesota and state officials to divest from fossil fuel companies.

Noor, meanwhile, said he’s eager to run again and energized a lot of people with his first campaign. A former School Board member, he’s also focused on improving educational outcomes and addressing the state’s disparities.

If elected, he’d focus on pushing for more investments in education, including universal pre-K programs with wraparound social services, addressing poverty and youth radicalization.

Kahn, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1972, said she’s running on her experience and strong relationships at the capital.

She said she’s campaigning with the message to voters that she’s the person in the best position to do the most for the district as a veteran lawmaker.

For the upcoming legislative session, some top priorities include promoting her bill banning people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from owning guns in Minnesota and lobbying for funding for University of Minnesota projects and the Cedar Cultural Center’s renovation in the bonding bill.

 

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At a glance: Minnesota’s 2016 Precinct Caucuses

What: Parties hold caucuses to endorse candidates, select delegates and discuss party values and goals.

When: Tuesday, March 1, 7 p.m.

Where: To find your caucus location, go to caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us

For more info: mnvotesinfo.sos.state.mn.us