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Looking for the political ground floor? Try Minn. caucuses, N.D. district conventions

Cathy Witthoeft, left, and her husband Brian stack books during the Minnesota Republican caucus at Moorhead High School on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Rick Abbott / The Forum

FARGO — The last several weeks have seen a flurry of announcements from legislative candidates in North Dakota but few if any in Minnesota, even though caucuses and conventions are coming up in both states.

The simple reason is that North Dakota's political process is a little more streamlined than Minnesota's.

Democrats and Republicans in North Dakota will have a chance to endorse legislative candidates at their district conventions. They'll also elect delegates for the state convention. Cass County Democrats are meeting Saturday, Feb. 3, and Republicans are meeting Thursday, Feb. 22.

Members of major parties in Minnesota won't endorse candidates at their precinct caucuses, all scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 6. They'll elect delegates to the county convention, which will endorse legislative candidates. But they will get to weigh in on who they want to see run for governor.

For those wishing to get in on the ground floor of North Dakota politics, the district conventions are the way to go. In Minnesota, the caucuses are the ground floor, though they are best known around the country as the way Minnesotans pick their preferred presidential candidates.

Most states, including North Dakota, use a primary election where voters go to the ballot box and check off the name of a candidate from one party. In Minnesota, voters have to show up in person at a caucus location to show their preference.

In election years when the White House isn't up for grabs, Minnesota caucuses are less consequential. Caucuses are the first of four levels of political meetings, and they don't endorse any candidates. County conventions, the second level, endorse legislative candidates. District conventions, the third level, endorse candidates for U.S. House. State conventions, the fourth level, endorse candidates for statewide offices, such as governors, and for U.S. Senate.

In North Dakota, the district conventions endorse legislative candidates and elect delegates to the state convention, which endorses all other state and national candidates.

Clay County GOP Chairman Fred Wright said caucuses in Minnesota do conduct a straw poll for governor, which, while not an endorsement, does help everyone get a sense of where the candidates stand. Candidates with strong support can bolster their fundraising this way, he said.

One of the main purposes of the caucuses is to start the debate over party platforms. The caucuses also elect delegates who will carry those platforms to the parties' county conventions, which will elect delegates to district conventions, which will elect delegates to state conventions. Anyone can vote on a party's platform at a caucus but, at higher levels, only a delegate can do so.

"As someone who's worked on political campaigns for the last several years, it's a great — I don't think there's a better way to get involved in the campaigning process," Clay County DFL Chairman Julian Dahlquist said of the caucuses.

"It's kind of a long process, but the important thing is — I think this is true whether it's on the Republican or the Democrat side — if you've got a pet issue or pet candidate or you want to get involved, it all starts at the caucus," Wright said.

The GOP's Tea Party movement in Minnesota got started at the caucus level back in 2010, he said, and now the Democrat's Resistance movement is starting at that level, too.

N.D. district conventions and Minn. precinct caucuses

Here's a list of upcoming North Dakota district conventions and Minnesota precinct caucuses in the area. For more information on North Dakota conventions, go to www.ndgop.org/events or demnpl.com/event-calendar. To find your Minnesota caucus location, plug in your address at caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

North Dakota Republicans

Districts 11, 13, 16, 21, 22, 27, 41, 44, 45 and 46 Republicans will hold their convention at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at former PRACS Institute offices, 4837 Amber Valley Parkway, Fargo.

District 20 Republicans will hold their convention with their Lincoln Day dinner at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 18 at Paula's Steakhouse & Lounge, 11 Main St. W., Mayville.

District 24 Republicans will hold their convention at 2 p.m. Feb. 10 in the pavilion at Chautauqua Park, 933 12th St. N.E., Valley City.

District 25 Republicans will hold their convention at 10 a.m. Feb. 24 at Pizza Ranch, 1110 3rd Ave. N., Wahpeton.

District 26 Republicans will hold their convention at 6 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Cogswell Community Center, 304 4th Ave.

North Dakota Democrats

Districts 11, 13, 16, 21, 22, 27, 41, 44, 45 and 46 Democrats will hold their convention at 1 p.m. Feb. 3, preceded by a chili feed at 11 a.m., at Carl Ben Eielson Middle School, 1601 13th Ave. S., Fargo.

District 20 Democrats will hold their convention at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Mayville Senior Citizens Center, 39 1st Ave. N.E.

District 24 Democrats will hold their convention at 2 p.m. Feb. 11 in Room 207 at the Gaukler Family Wellness Center, Valley City State University, 733 8th Ave. S.W.

District 25 Democrats will hold their convention at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 3 in the Boiler Room, 404 Dakota Ave., Wahpeton.

District 26 Democrats will hold their convention at 10 a.m. Feb. 17 at the Milnor Senior Center, 408 Main St.

Minnesota Republicans

Becker County Republicans from Audubon, Callaway, Detroit Lakes, Frazee, Lake Park, Ogema and the townships of Atlanta, Audubon, Burlington, Callaway, Cormorant, Cuba, Detroit, Eagle View, Erie, Hamden, Height of Land, Holmesville, Lake Eunice, Lake Park, Lake View, Maple Grove, Riceville, Richwood, Silver Leaf, Spring Creek, Sugar Bush, Walworth and White Earth will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, 900 Minnesota Highway 34 E., Detroit Lakes.

Becker County Republicans from Wolf Lake and the townships of Carsonville, Evergreen, Forest, Green Valley, Osage, Pine Point, Round Lake, Runeberg, Savannah, Shell Lake, Spruce Grove, Toad Lake, Two Inlets and Wolf Lake will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Wolf Lake Lions Hall, 121 Manninen Ave.

Clay County Republicans from Barnesville, Comstock and the townships of Alliance, Barnesville, Elkton, Holy Cross, Humboldt and Tansem will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Barnesville High School, 302 3rd St. S.E.

Clay County Republicans from Hawley, Hitterdal, Ulen and the townships of Cromwell, Eglon, Goose Prairie, Hagen, Hawley, Highland Grove, Keene, Parke, Riverton, Skree, Spring Prairie and Ulen will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Hawley High School, 714 Joseph St.

Clay County Republicans from Dilworth, Felton, Georgetown, Glyndon, Moorhead, Sabin and the townships of Elmwood, Felton, Flowing, Georgetown, Glyndon, Kragnes, Kurtz, Moland, Moorhead, Morken, Oakport and Viding will meet at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at Moorhead High School, 2300 4th Ave. S.

Mahnomen County Republicans from all precincts will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Mahnomen High School, 209 S. 1st St.

Norman County Republicans have not listed their meeting location.

Otter Tail County Republicans from Dalton, Elizabeth, Fergus Falls and the townships of Aastad, Aurdal, Buse, Carlisle, Dane Prairie, Elizabeth, Fergus Falls, Orwell, Oscar, Tumuli and Western will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Fergus Falls Armory, 421 E. Cecil Ave.

Otter Tail County Republicans from Dent, Perham, Richville, Vergas and the townships of Candor, Corliss, Dead Lake, Dora, Edna, Gorman, Hobart, Perham, Pine Lake and Rush Lake will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Heart of the Lakes Elementary School, 810 2nd Ave. S.W., Perham.

Otter Tail County Republicans from Deer Creek, Henning, Ottertail, Vining and the townships of Deer Creek, Girard, Henning, Inman, Leaf Lake, Nidaros and Otter Tail will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Henning High School, 500 School Ave.

Otter Tail County Republicans from Erhard, Pelican Rapids, Rothsay and the townships of Dunn, Erhards Grove, Norwegian Grove, Pelican, Scambler, Star Lake, Trondhjem, Friberg, Lida and Maplewood will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Lake Region Electric Co-op, 1401 S. Broadway, Pelican Rapids.

Otter Tail County Republicans from Battle Lake, Clitherall, Underwood and the townships of Amor, Clitherall, Eagle Lake, Everts, Leaf Mountain, Maine, St. Olaf, Sverdrup and Tordenskjold will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Lakes Area Community Center, 112 E. Main St., Battle Lake.

Otter Tail County Republicans from Bluffton, New York Mills, Wadena's Precinct 4 and the townships of Blowers, Bluffton, Butler, Compton, Homestead, Newton, Otto and Paddock will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at New York Mills Secondary, 209 N. Hayes Ave.

Otter Tail County Republicans from Parkers Prairie, Urbank and the townships of Eastern, Effington, Elmo, Folden, Oak Valley, Parkers Prairie and Woodside will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Parkers Prairie High School, 411 S. Otter Ave.

Wilkin County Republicans from all precincts will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Breckenridge High School, 710 13th St. N.

Minnesota Democrats

Becker County Democrats from all precincts will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, 900 Minnesota Highway 34 E., Detroit Lakes.

Clay County Democrats from Barnesville and the townships of Barnesville, Elkton, Humboldt, Skree and Tansem will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 in the library at Barnesville High School, 302 3rd St. S.E.

Clay County Democrats from Felton and the townships of Felton, Flowing, Morken and Viding will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Felton Community Center, 253 6th St.

Clay County Democrats from Georgetown and the townships of Georgetown and Kragnes will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Georgetown Community Center, 127 Main St.

Clay County Democrats from Glyndon and the townships of Glyndon, Moland, Riverton and Spring Prairie will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Glyndon Community Center, 212 Partridge Ave. S.

Clay County Democrats from Hawley and the townships of Cromwell, Eglon, Hawley, Highland Grove and Parke will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Hawley High School, 714 Joseph St.

Clay County Democrats from Dilworth, Moorhead and Oakport Township will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Comstock Memorial Student Union at Minnesota State University Moorhead, 615 14th St. S.

Clay County Democrats from Comstock, Sabin and the townships of Alliance, Elmwood, Holy Cross and Kurtz will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Sabin Community Center, 2 Main St.

Clay County Democrats from Hitterdal, Ulen and the townships of Goose Prairie, Hagen, Keene and Ulen will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Ulen High School, 27 2nd St. N.W.

Mahnomen County Democrats from all precincts will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 in the cafeteria at Mahnomen Elementary School, 310 W. Madison Ave.

Norman County Democrats from all precincts will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Ada Public School, 604 W. Thorpe Ave.

Otter Tail County Democrats from Nidaros and St. Olaf townships will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Battle Lake City Hall, 108 E. Main St.

Otter Tail County Democrats from Battle Lake, Clitherall, Underwood, Vining and the townships of Clitherall, Eagle Lake, Everts, Maine, Sverdrup and Tordenskjold will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Battle Lake High School, 402 Summit St. W.

Otter Tail County Democrats from Dalton, Elizabeth, Fergus Falls and the townships of Aastad, Aurdal, Buse, Carlisle, Dane Prairie, Elizabeth, Fergus Falls, Friberg, Orwell, Oscar, Tumuli and Western will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Fergus Falls Kennedy High School, 601 Randolph Ave.

Otter Tail County Democrats from Henning and the townships of Folden, Girard, Henning, Inman, Leaf Lake and Oak Valley will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Henning High School, 500 School Ave.

Otter Tail County Democrats from Bluffton, Deer Creek, New York Mills, Wadena's Precinct 4 and the townships of Blowers, Bluffton, Butler, Compton, Deer Creek, Homestead, Newton, Otto and Paddock will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at New York Mills High School, 209 N. Hayes Ave.

Otter Tail County Democrats from Parkers Prairie, Urbank and the townships of Eastern, Effington, Elmo, Leaf Mountain, Parkers Prairie and Woodside will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Parkers Prairie High School, 411 S. Otter Ave.

Otter Tail County Democrats from Erhard, Pelican Rapids, Rothsay, Vergas and the townships of Candor, Dora, Dunn, Erhards Grove, Lida, Maplewood, Norwegian Grove, Pelican, Scambler, Star Lake and Trondhjem will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Pelican Rapids Library, 25 Mill Ave.

Otter Tail County Democrats from Dent, Ottertail, Perham, Richville and the townships of Corliss, Dead Lake, Edna, Gorman, Hobart, Otter Tail, Perham, Pine Lake and Rush Lake will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Perham Middle School.

Wilkin County Democrats from all precincts will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at Breckenridge Public Library, 205 7th St. N.

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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