Voters flood Kagin for DFL caucus

By Tressa Versteeg

About 945 people attended the DFL caucus for St. Paul precinct W-3 P-07, breaking the previous record high of 250. Around half of the 945 left after they voted for the presidential candidate, leaving 435, many of whom were first time caucus-goers.”I was really impressed,” Ben Gockel ’11 said. “I thought it would be slightly more disorganized than it was. For all the people that came, who were unexpected, things seemed to go smoothly.”

The first part of the evening began officially at 6:30 p.m., with a line stretching down Grand Avenue to get into Kagin Ballroom. People were still streaming in the doors and registering at the official start time of 7 p.m., and the caucus preliminaries began before everyone was in and seated.

After rules and directions from the precinct chair, Minnesota State House Rep. Erin Murphy spoke. She stopped by to ask for support as she seeks reelection to a second term.

“I think I have great support and I am going to work very hard to do it again,” she said.

Next, several caucus-goers volunteered for various precinct positions and there was an opportunity for caucus-goers to speak in support of the three candidates up for Senate nomination. Will Howell ’08 spoke on behalf of Al Franken and Chip Peterson, a community member, spoke for Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. No one chose to speak for Mike Ciresi.

Richard Cohen, a Minnesota State Senator for over 20 years, then spoke about keeping the Democratic Party going strong.

“Keep it up, don’t give up, we’re going to win,” he said.

At this point in the evening, the presidential nominee votes were tabulated, resulting in a landslide for Barack Obama with 748 votes. Hilary Clinton had the next most votes with 177. John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich, who have both dropped out of the race, received a combined 10 votes.

Joey Mayer ’11 cast his vote for Clinton because of her experience, the bi-partisan legislation she has pushed for and her stances on the issues, as well as the fact that the candidates he previously supported, Bill Richardson and Edwards, have both dropped out.

“We need someone consistent,” Mayer said. “She tells you what she thinks and she’ll be a better president. I also think she has a better chance to win over McCain in the national election.”

Supporting Obama, as well as Senate candidate Al Franken, was Jake Levy-Pollans ’09.

“I think it’s important that students have a voice,” he said. “I think it’s important that we change what’s going on in DC . . . so I’m supporting Barack Obama and Al Franken because I think they both offer a new vision and a new way to do politics and are about changing the status quo.”

After this announcement, many of the 435 caucus-goers left, and the crowd fell to 167. The remaining caucus-goers were left to caucus for the 46 delegates who would represent the three Senate candidates at the senate district election on March 8.

Twelve groups were formed in the caucus and 10 minutes were allotted for people to choose the group they wished to support, based on candidate and issue area. After the number of delegates awarded to each candidate was calculated, five minutes were allowed for people to reposition within their issue categories in order to give their candidate as many delegates as possible. The Nelson-Pallmeyer groups won the most delegates, with 28. Franken came in next with 15, followed by Ciresi with three.

Ainsley Judge ’11 was one of many Macalester students supporting Nelson-Pallmeyer.

“He has a lot of great ideas for sustainability,” she said. “He supports green jobs, the use of solar panels and spoke at Focus the Nation. He also wants to establish a Department of Peace, which I think is something we also need.”

Many students were voted in as delegates, including Judge and Gockel.

“I really want to be a delegate because I want to study political science, especially in local government. I feel this is a good opportunity for a firsthand experience, out of school,” Gockel said. “I live in Minnesota and I feel like I should be participating in my state politics.”

Mayer threw his support in for Ciresi. He was disappointed in the lack of preparedness many Macalester students had.

“I was sad to see Mac students weren’t informed about the candidates, [saying things] like ‘Al’s famous,’ or ‘Jack is who everyone voted for so I will too … He [Ciresi] is the most level-headed and solid candidate and I like his stances on the issues,” he said.

After the caucus, the room cleared out even more and about 30 people were left to pass resolutions. A number of resolutions concerning environmental issues were passed, as well as resolutiong to provide funding for low-income families, to fire current Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau, supporting arts education and preventing governmental surveillance. A resolution legalizing medicinal marijuana was the only one that did not pass.