Wintry weather hampers attendance at Bemidji-area caucuses

The 2006 campaign opened Tuesday night with caucuses for Minnesota's major parties -- Independence, Republican and Democratic-Farmer-Labor. The Independence Party held no caucuses in the Bemidji area, but Republicans and DFLers gathered to begin ...

The 2006 campaign opened Tuesday night with caucuses for Minnesota's major parties -- Independence, Republican and Democratic-Farmer-Labor.

The Independence Party held no caucuses in the Bemidji area, but Republicans and DFLers gathered to begin the campaign season.

Attendance was hampered by a heavy, wet snowfall that made driving treacherous and visibility occasionally almost nil.

About 35 DFLers attended the caucuses at Lincoln Elementary School and about 50 each at Northern and J.W. Smith Elementary Schools.

The Republican caucus at Bemidji High School also drew about 35 people. Kath Molitor, Beltrami County Republican chairwoman, said the turnout was about a fourth of what was anticipated. About half the precincts, most in outlying areas, had no representatives.


"I've been secretary of this for 20 years and I've never seen this small of a show of people," said Annette Glidden, Beltrami County Republican secretary.

"It's a much lower turnout than two years ago," said Lincoln DFL site convener Michael Meuers.

"It's a beautiful winter night," said Irene Folstrom, a DFL candidate for the Minnesota District 4 Senate seat. "It really brings out the hard-core Democrats."

Folstrom asked for the party's endorsement, saying she has the passion and background to unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point.

Mary Olson, who is also seeking the DFL party's endorsement for the District 4 State Senate seat, also congratulated those at the caucus for their dedication.

She cited health care, education funding and making sure the middle class and poor people have a share of the country's wealth as some of her positions as a candidate.

District 4A Rep. Frank Moe, DFL-Bemidji, also made the rounds of the caucus sites. He pointed out the improvement the DFL party has made in strength since 2004 when there was no DFL representation from this area.

"We have a great opportunity now with two strong campaigns," Moe said. "If we roll up our sleeves and get behind the endorsed candidate, we can get the Senate seat, too."


He urged DFLers to stick to the concerns that are grounding of the party, including health care, education, transportation and the environment, rather than bashing Republicans.

"Be positive. Talk about the issues," Moe said. "We need to focus on the things important to us."

The caucuses included straw polls for the various candidates for state and federal election, as well as local candidates. Those who attended also signed resolutions, including state veterans bonus, support for family resorts, public access to lakes and no tax money to fund professional teams.

Get off the couches

Despite the sparse crowd, Molitor told those at the Republican caucus they could still get the word out, "if every single one of you would go out in the next few days and talk to 10 people," and encourage those people to do the same. "We need to win these elections and that's how we're going to do it."

"We need to get out of our couches and our church pews," she said. "We need to get out of our comfort zones and go to work - stand up for what we stand for."

Some of the Republicans were familiar with caucuses, like Kenneth Wold of Bemidji's Ward 3. Across from Wold and Doug Enns sat a pair of newcomers, Bemidji State University students Tyson Kuznia and Michael Hougen.

Kuznia plans to write about the event for BSU's Northern Student. Hougen said they would get college credit for attending.


Josh Holte of Ward 2 was also a first-timer and plans to attend future caucuses.

Ken Lidden of Northern Township wants to see "honest, fair, limited government," he said. "We're here for limited taxation, but that only comes if you limit government. ... The taxation system definitely needs overhaul."

Lidden is also concerned about strong moral values and is a staunch supporter of the second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms.

"We're really behind Carrie Ruud and we're strongly behind Doug Lindgren," said Kenn Cobb, representing Grant Valley Township. Lindgren, R-Bagley, is seeking to regain the District 2B House seat he lost to Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids.

Cobb said he wants voters to have the opportunity to vote on the defense of marriage act.

The Rev. David Myers R-Bemidji, who is seeking to unseat Moe, told those attending the caucus that he needed their support.

"We need to get the rising tax rate under control," Myers said. "We need to get the defense of marriage act."

Myers also said that in light of South Dakota's recent ban on nearly all abortions, "we might be able to overturn Roe v. Wade."


"There are many things that need to be done and they're not going to get done by Frank Moe," he said.

The Republicans also heard letters from key Republican leaders, discussed resolutions to the party's platform, selected delegates to the county convention and shared their opinions on key issues facing voters.

What To Read Next
Get Local