The midterm elections are 10 months away, but the first chance for voters to shape the ballot takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
That’s when political parties conduct precinct caucuses to begin the process of endorsing candidates, selecting delegates to conventions and staking out positions on key issues.
Turnout for midterm elections is consistently lower than presidential years. But these elections are just as important as electing a president, especially in Minnesota this year.
We’ll be electing a new governor. There are at least a half-dozen candidates in each party looking to replace Mark Dayton. Both political parties plan preference ballots for governor.
Because Al Franken resigned, both U.S. Senate seats are up. Amy Klobuchar will be running for a six-year term. Franken’s replacement, Tina Smith, will be running to fill out the last two years of Franken’s term. Republicans will be choosing challengers.
Rep. Tom Emmer, who has been a strong Trump supporter, says he’s running for re-election in the Sixth District and Democrats will nominate a candidate to challenge him.
All the state House of Representative seats are up. Locally, Jeff Howe represents the St. Joseph area in District 13A and Tim O’Driscoll represents the Sartell area in District 13B. Both men are Republicans.
Caucus members will choose delegates to future conventions who will endorse state and federal candidates.
There will be local, county and school board races on the ballot too but those candidates run without party designation so they are not part of the caucus agenda.
The political parties run the caucuses. They all start at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
To participate, you need to be an eligible voter and then you need to pick which party’s caucus to attend. The Minnesota Secretary of State has an online tool for finding Republican and DFL locations at http://caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us/. When you enter your address, your precinct name and caucus location as well as your congressional, legislative, school and county commission districts are displayed.
The site also has a link for information about Minnesota’s minor political parties such as the Green Party and the Independence Party.
Here are locations for the major party caucuses in St. Joseph and Sartell.
St. Joseph P1: Boardroom, Main Building, College of St. Benedict.
St. Joseph P2: Kennedy Community School.
St. Joseph Township P1: Kennedy Community School.
Collegeville Township P1: P. Engel Science Center, Room 269, St. John’s University
Collegeville Township P2: Pellegrene Auditorium, St. John’s University.
Sartell: Sartell High School
St. Joseph P1, P2 and St. Joseph Township: Sal’s Bar and Grill.
Sartell all precincts, St. Stephen, Le Sauk Township: Sartell Middle School.
Attending a caucus offers a chance to engage with your neighbors and make your voice heard at the grassroots level. Mark your calendars.