MARSHALL - The Marty Seifert campaign buttons and brochures spread out on tables at the site of local Republican precinct caucuses in Marshall. However, judging from area voters' reactions, many were already pulling for Seifert.
In a straw poll conducted Tuesday night, Seifert carried the majority of votes for the Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidate in Marshall precincts, as well as a solid number of votes from precincts across Lyon County.
Seifert, of Marshall, received a total of 49 votes from Marshall's three voting wards. By the end of the Marshall caucuses, Seifert had the lead in straw poll votes around Lyon County, with 88 votes. (Straw poll totals from the Minneota and Balaton precinct caucuses were not yet available.)
Photo by Deb Gau
Joseph Hulsizer was one of the area residents who volunteered to read messages from Minnesota gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates at the beginning of the Republican precinct caucuses, held at Grace Life Church in Marshall on Tuesday night.
The results seemed pretty well in line with those that were coming in from around Minnesota. As of 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, Seifert was leading the straw poll with about 30 percent of statewide votes. The next closest candidate was Dave Thompson with 24 percent.
Seifert said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the results coming in Tuesday night.
"We're the leaders, but there are a lot of votes yet to come in," Seifert said. At around 10 p.m., he was waiting to hear results from precincts in northeastern Minnesota. At any rate, he said, "We've outpaced what people were probably expecting, with the campaign starting later."
Seifert said the strength of the poll results were something of a surprise even to him - his goal was just to be one of the top three candidates.
Republican precinct caucuses for the city of Marshall, as well as several surrounding cities and townships, were held at Grace Life Church in Marshall on Tuesday.
Seifert wasn't at the Marshall caucus in person, focusing instead on speaking to voters in Eden Prairie and Bloomington.
"We expect to do well in southwest Minnesota," Seifert said, and he hoped area results would help serve as a springboard for the straw poll. Seifert said the response from Bloomington voters was "very good," once they had a chance to speak with him. Seifert noted he carried some voting precincts in Bloomington on Tuesday.
Although Seifert couldn't be in Marshall, a letter from him read at the start of the caucus was the only one to get applause from the audience. In his letter, Seifert asked area voters for their support and outlined key areas of his campaign platform including reducing Minnesotans' tax burden and repealing the MNsure health insurance program. The letter also reminded voters of his past record as a gubernatorial candidate.
"I am the only Republican candidate in this race who has ever pulled ahead of Mark Dayton," Seifert said in the letter.
Candidate letters read at the caucus emphasized the importance of unity in ousting Democratic-majority lawmakers. A message from U.S. Senate candidate Julianne Ortman stressed that Republicans can't afford to waste campaign time on a primary election if they are to defeat incumbent Sen. Al Franken.
Ortman had a strong showing in the Lyon County straw poll for U.S. Senate. With all but the Minneota and Balaton results in, Ortman had 32 votes. Candidates Chris Dahlberg and Mike McFadden each received 13 votes, Jim Abeler received 8 votes and Harold Shudlick received 1 vote.
The process of endorsing Republican candidates for Minnesota governor and U.S. Senator will continue this spring. Republican delegates will meet at the Lyon County convention on March 1.