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Clay County Democrats cancel in-person caucuses, Republicans to gather at hotel

The events will kick off the 2022 election season in Minnesota. North Dakota plans to hold district and county gatherings in February.

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Minnesota caucuses are planned for Tuesday night, Feb. 1.

MOORHEAD — Clay County Democrats have canceled in-person caucuses on Tuesday night, Feb. 1, while Republicans plan to meet at a Moorhead hotel for the gatherings that launch the 2022 election season.

DFL County Chairman Paul Harris said instead of meeting in person because of the omicron surge, the "contactless caucuses" will invite party faithful to fill out a nonattendee form available on the website to be a delegate to the county convention or submit resolutions to be considered for the party platform.

Residents can then drop off the form or fill them out on Tuesday at one of four locations between 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.: the Clay County DFL office at 1424 First Avenue North in Moorhead next to Junkyard Brewing Co., Comstock Memorial Union on the campus of Minnesota State University Moorhead or at the high schools in Barnesville or Hawley. There will be people on hand at each location to collect the forms, Harris said.

They can also be mailed to the Clay County DFL, P.O. Box 161, Moorhead, MN 56561.

The DFL county convention will be April 23 at the Comstock Memorial Union. Delegates to the state convention will be elected there and resolutions approved will be forwarded on to the state gathering, too. There is also the local state Senate district convention on April 30 at a site to be determined, Harris said.

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Often, the caucuses are a time for candidates for local, congressional and statewide offices to appear and try to seek support, but Harris said all statewide offices are held by DFL incumbents and they are all planning to run again.

However, he said, with Rep. Paul Marquardt retiring from the House, there will be a new candidate seeking his position who will try to garner support in the conventions ahead. Also, there's a field of candidates seeking to take on U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach, who beat out longtime Rep. Collin Peterson two years ago.

Harris said the leading candidate to take on Fischbach so far is Reed Olson, executive director of a nonprofit operating a homeless shelter, a restaurant owner and a two-term Beltrami County Commissioner from Bemidji. A Moorhead man, Mark Lindquist, who had announced earlier he was seeking the DFL nomination, has dropped out, Harris said.

In a different twist this year, the state party announced that Minnesotans who aren't eligible to vote in certain categories can still participate in the caucuses and convention process. Thus, non-citizen immigrants, "Dreamers" and ex-felons who served their time can participate, said the party in a news release. The party won a lawsuit overturning a state law that restricted caucus participation to eligible voters.

GOP gathering

Meanwhile, it's a different story on the Clay County Republican side in many ways. They will be gathering in person at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel's Convention Center at 1080 28th Ave. S. in Moorhead on Tuesday night, starting with registration at 6:15 p.m. and the caucuses from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Clay County Republican Party's website said all county precincts will be gathering at the convention center.

Participants will be seated by their precincts.

The caucus will involve voting in a straw poll for their favorite candidate to run in this year's governor race, electing delegates to the county convention, submitting resolutions to be voted upon and choosing precinct officers.

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Candidates seeking initial support for their campaigns may show up at caucuses, including the several GOP candidates for governor seeking to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz this fall.

A preference or straw poll secret ballot will be conducted statewide at caucuses to give an idea who might be the leader in the race for the GOP endorsement for governor. Candidates in the race so far are Michelle Benson, Paul Gazelka, Scott Jensen, Mike Murphy, Kendall Qualls and Neil Shah. Candidates are also seeking support for other statewide and local legislative seats.

Statewide and local results in the governor's candidate preference poll will be announced once results are tabulated.

Clay County Republican Party Chairman Edwin Hahn did not immediately respond to phone calls for comment about the gathering.

Other parties

Two other parties have gained major party status in Minnesota, both one-issue parties with an aim of legalizing marijuana in the state.

One of those parties, the Legalize Marijuana Now party, said they will have a caucus and a state convention this year as required. Its caucus will be virtual, too, said Marty Super, one of the party founders.

He said they welcome people from any party, noting they mostly have progressives but a few Republican supporters, too.

"We're kind of a one-issue party," he said.

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Super said they are looking for candidates to run in legislative races. He said when he ran for the state Senate in Minneapolis, he gained about 24% of the vote.

The other major party is the Legalize Cannabis party, which is planning a caucus at the Falcon Heights City Hall, 2077 Larpenteur Ave. W. Registration will be from from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., followed by the caucus. For those who cannot attend in person, the party will also have a Zoom virtual caucus on Wednesday, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m.

Details on the caucuses for the major parties are available on the Minnesota Secretary of State website: caucusfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

North Dakota

Unlike Minnesota, caucuses are not legally required in North Dakota.

However, those party members are also kicking off the election season starting in February with county and legislative district conventions to elect delegates to the state conventions and nominate legislative candidates for the June primary and fall general election.

State Communications Director Laura Dronen said the Cass County Democratic Convention will be Feb. 19 starting at 10 a.m. and will be virtual. She said delegates will be elected to the state convention March 24-27 in Minot, and legislative districts will meet separately to nominate candidates for the state House and Senate.

More details on the county convention and the link to the Zoom meeting will be available before the county gathering.

Jacob Striden, southeast regional chairman for the state Republican party, said the Cass County Republican Convention will be Tuesday, Feb. 22, starting at 5 p.m. at the PRACS building, 4837 Amber Valley Parkway S.

He said participants will nominate delegates to the state convention and possibly listen to candidates for statewide office. Some legislative districts will endorse candidates for the primary and fall election.

Some legislative districts have already endorsed candidates or will do so at other times, Striden said.

A few of the districts have to reorganize this year because of restricting following the 2020 census, he noted.

The state Republican convention is at the Bismarck Events Center on April 1-2.

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