Students host, run Democratic straw poll in Kagin

By Matea Wasend

The Feb. 2 gubernatorial caucus for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Kagin Commons was strikingly different from the presidential caucus held in the same building in fall 2008. Whereas the fall caucus saw nearly 1,000 attendees and general chaos, Tuesday night’s meeting was a quiet affair involving about 40 Macalester students and neighbors-not even enough to fill all of the precinct’s delegate slots for the senate district convention in March.The difference, speculated caucus volunteer Nate Wegmann ’10, is that this caucus “doesn’t really matter.”

“And we had to compete with the Lost premier,” volunteer Alex Rosselli ’10 said.

“It’s hard to get people excited so far in advance,” explained Robert Heyman ’12. “It’s easy to become disengaged in U.S. politics.”

Heyman was elected assistant precinct chair at the last caucus, which was heavily attended by Macalester students. As assistant chair, he had the responsibility of running Tuesday night’s caucus.

The host drew a few laughs over the course of the night, especially when he asked the nearly empty room if anyone wanted to be an alternate delegate when there were still unfilled delegate slots.

The caucus resulted in gubernatorial hopeful Matt Entenza receiving the most votes of all candidates in the straw poll, with 29 ballots.

A number of resolutions concerning environmental contamination, childhood care and healthcare were passed, and 31 attendees were nominated as delegates to the senate district convention.

The caucus was run almost entirely by Macalester students, who handed out informational flyers, registered voters and collected ballots. Two students were nominated as tellers, or ballot counters, including Mac Dems co-chair Natalie Pavlatos ’12.

A member of Macalester’s Model UN team and a self-described politics buff, Pavlatos said she has been politically involved since high school.

“At school everyone would come to me with questions about who to vote for,” Pavlatos said. “I tried to stay away from the political science major for as long as I could because everyone thought that was what I would do . but I couldn’t.”

Pavlatos wasn’t surprised by the lack of student interest in the caucus.

“For the presidential years the caucus is pretty important, but for the government years it just gauges support,” Pavlatos said. “It’s really the DFL endorsement that matters.”

Delegates at the State DFL Convention determine the party endorsement, which will take place in April in Duluth, Minn. Pavlatos said that with 11 candidates in the running at this point, it is still unclear who will win the party’s support.

A number of the caucus volunteers openly support gubernatorial hopeful Matt Entenza, a Macalester alumnus who served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for 12 years. Rosselli is Entenza’s College Outreach Director, and Pavlatos volunteered for his campaign over the summer.

Emma Kaplan ’12, who spoke in support of gubernatorial candidate Susan Gaertner during the caucus, expressed frustration with many Macalester students’ automatic support of Entenza.

“I feel like because everyone wants a governor who is connected with Mac and who is an alum, students just started blindly throwing their support behind him without considering any of the other, more qualified candidates in the field,” Kaplan said.

Although Mac Dems cannot give endorsement to one candidate in particular, Kaplan said the organization has lately seemed more like “Mac for Entenza”. She cited the caucus training session organized by Mac Dems, which was sponsored by Entenza’s campaign.

Pavlatos said while she and her co-chair both openly support Entenza, members of the organization are at liberty to back any candidate.

“As an organization we are neutral,” Pavlatos said. “[My support for Entenza] is more of a personal thing. The other members are welcome to support whoever they like.