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Michael Meuers, left, Bemidji Ward 5 DFL precinct captain, explains procedure Tuesday night as Democratic precinct caucuses were held at Lincoln School, one of 12 Beltrami County sites. Behind him is Beltrami County DFL Chairman Steve Nelson while caucus attendee Jackie Ryder is at right. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

DFL: Rybak wins favor at Beltrami County precinct caucuses

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Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, meet Beltrami County Democrats.

The urban mayor, who only in November won a second term, won the favor of Beltrami County precinct caucus attendees Tuesday night, scoring well in a non-binding preference poll for governor.

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At least that was the verdict of several Democratic precinct caucuses which convened at Lincoln Elementary School, one of 12 sites DFLers met for precinct caucuses in Beltrami County.

In a low attended caucus night despite nine major candidates on the straw poll ballot - former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton didn't want to partake in the poll and will go directly to the Sept. 14 primary -- Rybak polled 12 votes, including seven of 11 in Frohn Township.

Iron Range Rep. Tom Rukavina also won favor, coming in second with six votes, all from Bemidji Ward 5. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher got four votes and no one else got more than two.

Full Beltrami County results followed suit. Rybak led with 36 votes, followed by Rukavina with 23, Marty 19 and Kelliher 16. Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook polled 13 votes while former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza got 10 and Rep. Paul Thissen nine votes. Former Sen. Steve Kelley got five votes and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner two.

"The quest for 'change' continues," said Beltrami County DFL Chairman Steve Nelson. "It's been 19 years since Gov. Perpich. Today we begin the campaign to put a DFL governor in office."

In statewide results, with 73 percent of precincts reporting, Rybak with 21.5 percent led Kelliher with 20 percent. Rukavina was fourth with 7.5 percent, behind Sen. John Marty's 9.8 percent.

Delegates cast their ballots when they arrived at 7 p.m.. but voting in the preference poll had to remain open until 8 p.m.

"Let the tellers count the ballots," Frohn precinct captain John McCarthy said at the stroke of 8 p.m. "That's what we're all here for."

Thirteen people caucused in Bemidji Ward 5 while 11 were in Frohn Township. Ten Lake Township had five people will Unorganized No. 3 had only two. A spot was laid out for Moose Lake Township, but no one showed, with that precinct needing to elect two delegates to the Beltrami DFL County Convention, which is noon Feb. 28 in Bemidji State's Beaux Arts Ballroom.

All the precincts elected permanent precinct chairmen and delegates to the county convention, but even there very few resolutions to change or add to the party platform were offered.

"Institutionalized racism is still firmly in place and entrenched in all aspects of life in Minnesota,' 'said Ward 5 caucus attendee Greg Paquin, who is seeking DFL endorsement over Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-B emidji.

Saying institutionalized racism is more evident in American Indian communities, Paquin offered a resolution that affirmative action become part of the Minnesota DFL platform and that the DFL supportsthe strict enforcement of all affirmative action guidelines and policies and that affirmative action plans "must be drawn up and implemented to become part of all projects in Minnesota ..."

Paquin was the only supporter of the resolution which wasn't adopted, mostly because of a lack of understanding, as six people abstained while five voted no.

Precinct captain Michael Meuers said he thought affirmative action was already part of the DFL Party platform.

A measure by Joe Day on affirmative action, however, did pass. He asked "all governances to recognize and uphold Affirmative Action in all agencies."

"This is a watered-down version of what I want," Paquin said.

"Federal law includes affirmative action, and tribes are covered by the Tribal Employment Rights Act," Day said. "And the private sector has the Human Rights Commission. This would affect state and local governments."

That measure passed with four abstentions and only Paquin opposed/

The institutionalized racism resolution, however, did pass unanimously in Frohn Township.

Frohn Township also passed a resolution offered by Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, to call upon the DFL to oppose the expansion of gambling in the state.

The state already allows several forms of gambling, such as horse racing, charitable gambling and the State Lottery, plus it has compacts with the tribes to allow on-reservation gaming, he said.

"The gambling already offered throughout the state provides economic benefit to many people as well as our local economy," Persell said. "Our local economies are fragile enough and should not be put in further jeopardy."

The resolution calls for the DFL "to oppose all further expansion of gambling, be it state-owned casinos, racinos or in any other form."

Persell said lawmakers twice last session staved off video slots in bars. "If this ever happens, our region loses jobs, period. Both Indian and non-Indian, as 60 percent of the workers in casinos are non-Indian."

The resolution would not affect American Indian gaming within reservations. "We can't tell the tribes what to do," Persell said.

Bemidji Ward 5 also passed a resolution calling on the use of instant runoff voting in state and local elections. The system allows voters to rank candidates, so if no majority winner is declared, a voter's second choice is added to the mix until a majority winner is declared.

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