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Beltrami County residents gather for caucus events in preparation for primary election

Members of the Beltrami County Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican parties participated in caucus night events on Tuesday, Feb. 1, ahead of the 2022 midterms.

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Constituents chat ahead of the GOP caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at Bemidji High School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Both major parties in Beltrami County held caucus meetings Tuesday evening where attendees selected delegates, made resolutions and learned about candidates in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.

The DFL held caucuses at five locations throughout the county, with the largest taking place at Bemidji Middle School drawing in 94 participants.

The meeting also had COVID precautions in place, with those who participated needing to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, in addition to wearing a well-fitted mask.

The GOP had caucuses at four locations, with their largest gathering held at Bemidji High School with an estimated 80 to 90 participants.

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Beltrami County DFL Chair Curtiss Hunt checks in with a caucus group on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at Bemidji Middle School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

One of the primary purposes of the caucuses was to ensure participants selected delegates to represent their precincts at the upcoming party conventions. Both will be held in Rochester, Minn., later this year.

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“This is a major undertaking, getting all 63 precincts represented,” said Curtiss Hill, Beltrami County’s DFL chair.

Attendees also took the time to draft resolutions highlighting issues they want to see addressed in their party’s platform.

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Beltrami County GOP Chair Rich Siegert speaks at the GOP caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at Bemidji High School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“This is the grassroots where everything gets started,” said Rich Siegert, county chair of the GOP. “We’re going to be doing a lot of work today.”

Those who attended the meetings heard from candidates, either directly or through prepared letters.

The DFL caucus included visits from a number of candidates running for local positions, who went to each precinct, which had been divided into pods, and introduced themselves in a short speech.

“We basically have one-on-one contact with the candidates,” Hill explained.

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A group meets at the DLF caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at Bemidji Middle School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Congressional Representatives Michelle Fischbach, R-MN7, and Pete Stauber, R-MN8, both sent in letters that were read aloud at the GOP meeting.

Attendees at the caucus also heard letters from potential GOP candidates for Minnesota governor, one of three major state offices up for election in 2022 that are currently held by DFL incumbents. The other positions open during this year’s midterms are secretary of state and attorney general.

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“This is a major election year, nearly every office in Minnesota is up for election,” said Siegert.

Those running for the Republican nomination for governor include two current members of the Minnesota Senate, Michelle Benson, District 31; Paul Gazelka, District 9; as well as Dr. Scott Jenson, a former state senator for District 47.

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Beltrami County Commissioner Craig Gaasvig participates in the GOP caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at Bemidji High School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

The GOP caucus also held a straw poll for the candidates for governor. While the results have no official effect, they do show who is currently leading in the race.

Statewide the straw poll was won by Jensen, who took in nearly 40% of votes cast, placing him as the front runner of the race. Second in the poll was Gazelka, who received just under 14% of the votes.

The upcoming midterms will also be taking place after the Minnesota political districts are reorganized, with redistricting scheduled for Feb. 15.

This has caused some candidates to delay putting their names forward until the results of redistricting are known.

“A lot of candidates are waiting till they know the new district boundaries,” Hill said.

The 2022 state primary elections are scheduled for Aug. 9, and the midterm elections will take place on Nov. 8.

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Beltrami County Commissioner Reed Olson, who is seeking the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's endorsement for the 7th Congressional District, speaks at the DFL caucus on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at Bemidji Middle School.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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