DFL, GOP leaders make bipartisan pitch for caucuses

DFL chair Ken Martin, left, and state Republican chair Keith Downey appeared together at a news conference to urge Minnesotans to attend precinct caucuses. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

State DFL chair Ken Martin and Republican chair Keith Downey appeared together at a news conference Wednesday in St. Paul to encourage people to show up at precinct caucuses Tuesday, which will include presidential preference voting. Both party leaders are already preparing for big turnouts.

Martin said voting for presidential candidates is only one of the ways that caucus-goers can have an impact at the grassroots level.

“It allows ordinary Minnesotans to have a huge say in the direction of their political party, through the debate of resolutions for inclusion in our party platforms, the elections of precinct officers and other officers along the way,” Martin said. “Our system truly creates an advantage for ordinary people to have a huge say in this process.”

Downey said Minnesota’s caucuses, which were moved this year to Super Tuesday with 11 other states, come at a pivotal time in the presidential race.

“Minnesota will be part of a night where logically you could even conclude that the nominee or at least the finalists will be determined on both sides,” Downey said.

Downey and the state party are staying neutral in the GOP presidential contest. He said frontrunner Donald Trump could potentially win in Minnesota, but so could Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

“In my mind it’s wide open, and let’s let our Minnesota voters speak next Tuesday,” he said.

The DFL party is neutral too. Martin supports Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the race for president. But he stressed that as party chair he’s treating both campaigns equally.

“We’ve bent over backwards to make sure what we have to do to prepare for caucuses is fair and open,” he said.

Martin said he thinks Clinton has a better organization in Minnesota but Sanders has more “organic” support. He said he’s not sure who has the edge.

Participants at the DFL caucuses will receive a presidential preference ballot that also includes the names of Martin O’Malley, who’s no longer in the race, and longshot candidate Rocky De La Fuente.

The GOP caucus ballot will list the candidates who were in the race at the beginning of this week: Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Ben Carson and John Kasich.