Straw polls by political parties draw record crowds in the area
By Lynda Jensen
Overflowing rooms and makeshift ballots were commonplace Tuesday, as local voters flocked to local precinct caucuses in record numbers.
Both Republicans and Democrats recorded capacity crowds in Cokato and Dassel, with tallies reflecting a mixed bag of preferences for the presidential race in November.
In either case, Democrats and Republicans have open races with several viable candidates, although local precincts revealed the pocket of conservatism in the region by casting higher-than-average votes for ultra conservative Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.
Nevertheless, Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, received the local endorsement for Republicans, and Illinois Senator Barack Obama for Democrats.
This is also the direction of statewide preferences as well, with Romney being endorsed and Obama receiving votes nearly two to one, compared to New York Senator Hillary Clinton.
Locally, Clinton and Obama were locked in a dead heat, with precincts registering only a few votes difference to distinguish the winner.
Despite the Republican endorsement by Minnesota voters for Romney, he dropped out of the race Wednesday, the day after caucus results, when he failed to carry many other states.
The Dassel Republican caucus registered 112 registered attendees, reported Mike Housman. “There were probably a half dozen observers, mostly young adults under 18,” he said.
Darwin Republicans attended a caucus in Litchfield, which had 143 attendees.
In Cokato, DFLers reported about 125 attendees, with a close race between Obama and Clinton. Obama received the local endorsement with 69 votes, followed by Clinton with 55.
Dassel Democrats attracted about the same number of people at the Dassel Elementary Library.
Republicans in the Howard Lake and Cokato areas, who conducted a joint meeting at the Cokato City Hall, reported 184 ballots cast in their caucuses. Cokato area voters chose Ron Paul as their first choice for the Cokato, French Lake, and Middleville precincts.
Locally in District 18, which covers McLeod and Meeker counties, Republicans chose Romney by 336 votes, with Ron Paul capturing second place with 275 votes. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee obtained third place with 199 votes. Fourth choice was Arizona Senator John McCain with 156 votes.
Democrats were divided by only two candidates, Clinton and Obama, the latter of whom earned the local endorsement with 645 votes. Clinton received 506 candidates from DFLers in District 18.
In District 19, which covers the eastern half of Wright County, including Victor Township, Republicans chose Romney with 739 ballots, or approximately 51 percent of the ballots cast. Second choice was a close race between Huckabee (248) and McCain (243). Paul earned fourth place with 208 votes.
For Democrats in District 19, Obama was again the choice with 1,162 votes, with Clinton earning 861 votes.