BEMIDJI-- Turnout was smaller at this year's Beltrami County Republicans convention than last year's, but the conservative ideals were just as stalwart as an election year.
Minnesota Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, urged conservatives to vote, and voice their opinions as the Minnesota Legislature is in session.
"Just remember that every law that we pass, in some way, affects your liberty," he said in the opening address. "We need you to exercise your liberty, and demand that you retain the liberty. That's the battle that we're having at this generation, at the national level, and at the state level."
Hancock used a metaphor of the American Civil War to describe the political atmosphere in Minnesota. Right now, Republicans are passive, like the tourists that famously picnicked on bluffs and and watched the First Battle of Bull Run (also called Manassas) rage below them, he said.
"What you're witnessing now is... just the first battle of Bull Run," he said. "Before we get to Gettysburg and Antietam, join us. Get involved. Instead of having your picnic lunch up on the hill and watching the battlefield, grab your sword. Come on down with us, and help us with the battle."
However, there was some common ground between Republicans and the DFL, he said.
"I think the (Iron) Range Democrats would like to get the mines open, I think they'd like to get the oil pipes, I think they'd like to grow the economy," he said.
Hancock called for volunteers to run for state office: to unseat Democratic legislators Sen.Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, and Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, in 2016, and eventually to replace Hancock himself.
"I want to play some golf later on while I can still play golf," he quipped.
Beltrami County Republicans official Kath Molitor also urged people to get off the sidelines. She asked the audience to commit to at least one party volunteering job and to bring at least three friends along.
"We can't do this with the number of people in this room," she said. "The Dems put us to shame with their organization, the Dems put us to shame with the amount of people that they have volunteering."
Walker wins presidential straw poll
The convention-goers held a straw poll for the 2016 presidential election. Before the vote took place, they were allowed to give brief speeches in favor of a potential Republican candidate. People spoke in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, conservative pundit and former surgeon Dr. Ben Carson and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Walker won the straw poll with 16 votes, followed by Carson with eight votes.
The convention also elected delegates to the state Republican Central Committee. Adam Bommersbach was elected to be Beltrami County's delegate from U.S. Congressional District Seven, and Ken Cobb was elected to represent District Eight.
Alternates chosen were Kristine Bommersbach, Heidi Johnson and Roger Heger in District Seven, and Kath Molitor, Craig Gaasvig and Abbi Cobb in District Eight.