MARSHALL - Outside of the political spectrum, Tuesday night was just another frigid February night. But if you follow politics, Tuesday was the first of a number of key dates on the political calendar that leads up to the November elections.
As part of caucus night, Minnesota Republicans held straw polls Tuesday in the race for governor and U.S. Senate. This year's caucuses held special meaning locally as Marshall resident Marty Seifert is one of six GOP hopefuls looking to gain the party's nomination and face off against Gov. Mark Dayton in November.
Seifert joined the race late, waiting until ground was broken on the new cancer institute at Avera, his former employer, but so far it appears that hasn't prevented him from making an immediate impact.
Seifert led the way Tuesday, coming in with 4,033 votes (28.60 percent) in the non-binding straw poll, just ahead of Dave Thompson at 3,598 (25.52 percent) with all 127 caucuses reporting. Jeff Johnson came in third at 2,433 votes, or 17.26 percent, followed by Scott Honour, Kurt Zellers and Rob Farnsworth.
"I told the (Capitol) press corps this morning we were a bit stunned coming in first place," Seifert said Wednesday. "Of the six candidates, we were the last ones in; we've only been campaigning for two months. So our expectation really wasn't that we were going to win first place. It's very humbling. We pulled off a win, and we're excited."
Seifert said he did better than he had expected in the metro area - and better than he fared there in his 2010 campaign for governor. He said that his non-stop campaigning around the state leading up to the precinct caucuses paid off beyond his expectations.
"We wanted to place in the top three; I have to believe - if you can't pull 10 percent in the caucus to support you, how do you identify people to be your supporters to do parades, put up signs, to donate, to help you win the election? You have to identify supporters to help you through the process," he said.
Of course, it is still only February, and Seifert is careful not to put too much stock in this week's results. In 2010, Seifert, then the House minority leader, won big on caucus night only to be overtaken by Tom Emmer at the state GOP convention.
"We learned lessons from 2010," said Seifert, who admitted running that year while holding down a seat in the House at the time, presented a unique challenge. "I was in the Legislature at that time working on serving my district by voting, attending meetings - I never missed one vote in 2010. This time around, I've got the flexibility to travel and campaign."
The Lyon County Republican convention will take place March 1. The GOP state convention is May 30-31. Absentee voting for the August primary begins in late June. Absentee voting for the general election starts in mid-September.