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A peek at GOP favorites for governor, senate tonight

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It's an event that die-hard political junkies look forward to, and most citizens ignore. Minnesota's 4,102 precinct caucuses will be held in schools, churches and fire halls around the state Tuesday evening.

The Pioneer Press noted that it's a pivotal step for candidates running for the Minnesota governor’s office, a U.S. Senate seat and hundreds of other elective offices. Caucuses are neighborhood meetings where those attending set in motion the machinery for endorsing candidates for the November elections.

DFL incumbents Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken face no internal challengers. All statewide offices are currently held by DFLers, but there is an opening for secretary of state, where incumbent Mark Ritchie is not seeking a third term.

MinnPost suggested that any excitement from the precinct caucuses will come from the non-binding Republican straw polls, what it called "the grass-roots views of the top-of-the ticket GOP competitions for governor and U.S. Senate."

The West Central Tribune in Willmar noted the straw poll will gauge support for the GOP candidates, which could sway how party delegates will vote during nominating conventions.

MPR News reported the precinct caucuses may reveal an internal split within the state Republican Party, between what it termed "traditional pragmatists and hard-core idealists; between tea-party activists and Ron Paul-style libertarians."

MinnPost's analysis said that some high-profile GOP candidates are "toning down some of the hard-right talk." The story said gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, wrote a letter to GOP activists likely to attend caucuses urging them to think about how the candidates will appeal to their "non-Republican neighbors."

Joining Johnson in the quest for the party’s nod for governor are Rob Farnsworth, Scott Honour, Marty Seifert, Dave Thompson and Kurt Zellers.

In the race to run against Sen. Franken, state Sen. Julianne Ortman recently announced she will abide by the party endorsement. But candidates Mike McFadden and state Rep. Jim Abeler have indicated a likely primary run.

The West Central Tribune offered the reminder that caucuses allow citizens to get involved with shaping their party's platform and selecting its standard-bearers.

“A lot of people complain on the sidelines,” said Rollie Nissen, chairman of the Kandiyohi County Republican Party. “Be part of the process. Complaining about it doesn’t accomplish anything. Caucuses are where you have a shot at changing something at the grassroots level.”

The website for the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office has a precinct caucus finder to direct citizens to their caucus.

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