Political parties in Minnesota are hosting their first precinct caucuses ahead of the 2018 mid-terms.
At a series of neighborhood meetings, supporters of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) and the GOP will endorse candidates, select their delegates and party officers, and lay out the issues they feel should be part of their party's platform ahead of the November elections.
The race for Governor gets intriguing
This is a huge year for politics in Minnesota, because we are seeing both U.S. Senate seats up for election as well as all U.S. House seats, and the election of a new Minnesota governor.
That's why this week could be very interesting, because we're going to get the first indication of how party members feel about what issues are the most important to them in a momentous set of elections.
The main event of the caucuses will be a straw poll of gubernatorial candidates, giving us a first indication of who is each party's favorite in a year where both the DFL and GOP select new candidates, since current Gov. Mark Dayton is retiring.
DFL candidates include former St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman, Rep. Tim Walz, state Rep. Erin Murphy, state auditor Rebecca Otto and state Rep. Paul Thissen.
On the GOP side, declared candidates include Hennepin County commissioner and former gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, Woodbury mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, former state GOP chairman Keith Downey, and activists Jeffrey Ryan Wharton and Phillip Parrish.
There are also rumors that former governor Tim Pawlenty is mulling another run.
You can find profiles of candidates for both parties here, courtesy of MinnPost.
Are the gubernatorial choices binding?
No. The caucuses are designed to get a feel of who the party should nominate as their endorsed candidate for governor in November.
The final decision on nominees will be made during nominating conventions in June.
As KSTP reports, the straw poll of gubernatorial candidates is "rarely indicative of who will win each party's nomination."
What about Senate and House races?
Another important part of caucusing will be the selection of delegates who will choose the candidates that will run in U.S. Senate and House races, as well as Minnesota House and Senate races.
In the U.S. Senate race, the only declared Republican candidate for Senate is Rep. Karin Housley, with others coy on their plans to challenge Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith for their seats.
There have been noises made that Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt could make a run for the Senate, with the Pioneer Press noting that former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch could also challenge.
As for the House races, there are expected to be strong DFL challenges to GOP incumbents Erik Paulsen and Jason Lewis in a year in which a "blue wave" is expected.
How do I caucus?
You can find your closest caucus location here, courtesy of the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State. They should start at 7 p.m. and run until at least 8 p.m.
Some parties, such as the Independence Party, holds caucuses online as well as in-person.
As MPR describes, caucus-goers tend to be party regulars or "voters passionate about a specific issue or candidate."
You're support to generally agree with a party's principles, though in Minnesota there's no way of verifying that because you don't have to be registered with a party such as the DFL or GOP, or even be registered to vote, to take part in a caucus.