It was a busy evening for the Minnesota DFL and GOP as both parties held precinct caucuses across the state. It's the first major step for voters to decide which candidates they want on the November ballot.
At the Republican Party precinct caucus Tuesday held at Mayo High School, voters participated in a gubernatorial poll, set party platforms, elected delegates. Caucus-goers also had a chance to meet with the leading contenders in-person for the First congressional district seat which covers most of Southeast, Minnesota.
Rochester State Senator Carla Nelson and Jim Hagedorn of Blue Earth both seek the seat currently held by Democrat Tim Walz hoping to turn it red.
"I think we're all tired of people that are 'just talk', we need people who deliver, "said Carla Nelson.
Nelson said she believes her conservative track record, as well as her history of winning in competitive districts, make her the strongest candidate to take on the Democratic candidate in November. After hearing from supporters who said they would not make it to the precinct caucuses or the district convention in April, Nelson announced Monday she will place her name on the ballot for the August Republican primary. In making this announcement, Nelson boasts that she has out-raised Hagedorn by more than half.
"The Democrats kinda have their party insiders determine who their nominee should be, I think going to a primary and letting all the conservative voters across the first district, weigh in and select that candidate best candidate is really important to winning this seat," said Nelson.
In response to Nelson's decision to run in the primary, Hagedorn said he is not surprised and is confident that he is a great position to take the seat.
"We need to reform our government to keep our economy moving in the rightI'm all for that tax reform bill, regulatory reform, work for welfare, and then of course energy independence, and lastly we need to protect our God-given rights," said Hagedorn.
Aaron Miller, Olmsted County Republican Party chair said Nelson's decision to forego the endorsement process put the Republican leaders in a unique situation.
"It's unfortunate because we encourage all of the candidates, regardless of the seat that they're seeking, to embrace the endorsement process and abide by the endorsement once that's actually given out," said Miller. "That won't be until April at the CD1 convention."
At the Republican caucus, voters cast their vote in a non-binding straw poll for governor. Among the five Republicans and undecided, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson was the big winner with 43 percent of the votes followed by school teacher Phillip Parrish with 17 percent.
Former Minnesota chairman of the Republican Party Keith Downey was in third place with 15 percent, followed by Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens at 11 percent, a percentage point higher than undecided. Lance Johnson received one percent of the votes.
Results of these straw polls are non-binding but they are a good indication of how candidates will do in the spring and at conventions.