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No ballot? No problem: GOP caucus draws local partisans

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Greg Gallas, Olmsted County GOP chairman, left, and Conner Reed, caucus coordinator for Olmsted County Republicans, sort precinct sheets following the Republican Precinct Caucuses at Mayo High School on Tuesday night. (John Molseed / jmolseed@postbulletin.com)

The main motivating force for Olmsted County Republicans this election year wasn’t on a ballot at the precinct caucuses Tuesday night.

In fact, the GOP didn’t even have ballots.

For the first time since 1992, the presidential nominee voting moved to a primary election next week, and with no initiatives, there were no balloted issues for Republican caucus-goers to vote on.

Instead, people gathered by precinct to elect officers, appoint delegates to the county convention, and to nominate amendments to the state party platform.

Several unchallenged incumbents briefly attended caucuses throughout Olmsted County and Minnesota’s First Congressional District.

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Although they aren’t facing primary challengers, the caucuses are where many of them connect with first-time and longtime volunteers for their upcoming campaigns.

"(The caucus) is truly the start of the grassroots campaign," said Conner Reed, caucus coordinator for Olmsted County Republicans.

Reed was coordinating the caucus site at Mayo High School on Tuesday night. Most precincts had three or four people attending, with a few with no attendance.

Rochester Sen. Carla Nelson, Republican majority member and chairwoman of the Education Finance Policy Committee, visited multiple sites Tuesday.

Although she didn’t directly participate, this was the 30th caucus she has attended. She credits the caucus participation system with her entry into politics. She said she was selected as a precinct delegate at her first caucus.

"It is the best way to get involved," she said, adding that she understands the support for primary elections, too.

"The caucus can be tough because you have to be here at this time and this place," she said, adding that her 87-year-old mother didn’t participate due to mobility concerns.

"With the primaries, everyone can participate," she said.

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However, she said the caucus is still relevant.

"It’s where you meet with like-minded neighbors and discuss issues important to you, who you want to represent you," she said.

Minnesota Republicans Sen. Dave Senjem, of Rochester; Rep. Nels Pierson, of Stewartville; and Kenneth Bush, a candidate running for District 25B in the state Legislature, visited.

So what had people fired up about the election during a caucus that was little more than procedural?

It’s the lone name that will be on the Republican presidential primary ballot next week — President Donald Trump, said Greg Gallas, Olmsted County GOP chairman.

Gallas pointed to a poster listing Trump’s accomplishments in his first 28 months in office.

"It’s gotten people more energized and involved in government across the board," he said. "That’s a positive outlook across America."

Without ballots to count, GOP officials will tally precinct attendance sheets to determine how many people attended the caucuses. Reed said that could take a week or more.

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The delegates will move on to the Olmsted County GOP convention March 21. The state GOP convention will be held here in Rochester May 15-16.

GOP caucus

Related Topics: CARLA NELSONOLMSTED COUNTY
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