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Primary election leaves GOP caucus in ‘new territory’

Photo by Deb Gau At Tuesday’s GOP precinct caucus, area residents including Ken Murphy volunteered to read letters from Republican candidates running for office this year.

MARSHALL — In past years, Lyon County Republicans had seen some big turnouts on precinct caucus night. But on Tuesday, it was harder to know what to expect, local party leaders said.

“This is new territory,” said Deb Clark, Lyon County Republicans co-chairperson. Minnesota is having a presidential primary election this year instead of the polls that drew many people to participate.

“It’s a two-step process this year for the first time in many years,” said convener David Sturrock as he welcomed area residents to the caucus.

Clark said party organizers would have to wait and see how the primary affected turnout at caucuses around the county Tuesday night. In Marshall, a little over 50 people attended caucuses for 10 precincts in the Marshall and Lynd areas. Other Republican caucuses were also held in Balaton, Cottonwood, Minneota and Tracy.

“It’s all part of a county-wide and statewide gathering with a long tradition,” Sturrock told the crowd.

Clark said past attendance at the Lyon County precinct caucuses fluctuated, depending on factors like whether it was an off-year for elections. Straw polls for presidential, gubernatorial and other political candidates also tended to draw higher numbers of people.

The biggest turnout in recent years came in 2016.

“There were over 400 people,” she said. But the record caucus turnout in 2016 also included many people who were mainly interested in voting in the poll.

The focus at this year’s caucus was mainly on party business. Voters broke up into smaller groups by voting precinct, to nominate delegates to attend upcoming Lyon County and 7th District Republican conventions, and to draft resolutions for the party to consider. Corey Becker, regional field director for Trump Victory, invited area residents to sign a petition in support of President Donald Trump. Becker said the campaign will open regional offices in Marshall and Moorhead.

County residents attending the caucus said they weren’t only there to support Trump and other Republican candidates. Taking part in their government at the grassroots level was also important.

Marshall resident Paul Swift said he was participating in the caucus because “It’s the basic start of the democratic process, electing the officials we want representing us.”

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