GOP: Caucus discusses issues, looks to election
Neighbors conferred with neighbors as the Republican precincts caucused Tuesday night at the Bemidji High School Commons, one of three sites in the county.
Beltrami County Republican Co-Vice Chairwoman Kath Molitor said she was pleased that the gathering of about 130 people from the Bemidji city wards and surrounding townships was more than the turnout for the off-year four years ago.
"We used to be able to fit them at three tables, so this is great," she said.
The representatives at the various precinct tables discussed the Republican platform planks and prepared for the straw poll for governor candidates.
"We're very popular," said John Hawthorne at the table designated for the townships of Alaska, Maple Ridge and Roosevelt. "We've got three townships here and three people." His companions were Al Belleveau and Bill Yarrington of Puposky.
Barbara Zentek and John Herrera voted at the Turtle River Township, but represented the northeast Beltrami County unorganized townships table.
"Actually, we're better organized than Turtle River because we're here," said Herrera indicating the empty seats beside him and Zentek.
"We get two delegates and there are just two of us, so we're both delegates," Zentek said.
She said she and her husband, Frank, retired to the Pike Hole area from Illinois.
"We didn't know we were Republicans until we moved here," she said.
"The Republican Party is the party of upward mobility," said Herrera. "That's what stimulated my interest in the party."
Greg Claypool and Leroy and Betty Petersen represented Lammers Township. They discussed the country's problems and the direction they would like to see in politics.
"It's just simply something's got to be done," said Leroy Petersen. "I'm old enough to remember the Depression. They've got to quit arguing, these politicians, and use good old common sense."
He said he sees politicians working for themselves and their interests, not the interests of the people they're supposed to represent in Washington, D.C.
The youngest representatives at the caucus were Elinor Kastner, 18 months, and her brother, Judah, 2 months. They were with their parents, Justin and Audra Kastner, at the Eckles Township table.
The nonbinding straw poll garnered 131 votes: Rep. Marty Sieffert of Marshall took 56.5 percent for 74 votes; Rep. Tom Emmer of Delano took 27.5 percent for 36 votes; Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie took 9.9 percent for 13 votes; busnessman Philip Herwig of Milaca took 3.1 percent for 4 votes; former Rep. Bill Haas of Champlin took 2.3 percent for 4 votes; and one vote was for no candidate.
In addition to the straw poll, the precincts elected delegates and chairmen to work with the committees as the election season unfolds.