Issues bring voters to DFL caucus in Park Rapids

Discussing local issues and formulating resolutions to address them was the reason most voters gave for coming to Tuesday night’s DFL caucus in Park Rapids. Lorie Skarpness/Enterprise.

Only about 40 voters attended the Hubbard County DFL caucus held at the Park Rapids High School Tuesday.

Staying home to watch the presidential debate and not having a presidential vote at this caucus, due to the March 3 primary, were two speculations for the low turnout. A few attending the caucus did both, watching the presidential debate on their phones while waiting for the caucus to begin.

Among people who ventured out, the main reason they gave for coming was to make a difference on issues by supporting resolutions that are important to them.

The caucus held at the high shool was attended by voters from the city of Park Rapids and the townships of Arago, Henrietta, Hubbard, Lake Emma and Straight River. There were no voters in attendance from Lake Alice, Clover or Clay townships.

DFL precinct caucuses were also held in Nevis and Laporte schools, Helga Community Center and Rockwood Town Hall.


In years past, people chose their favorite presidential candidates at the caucus through a straw poll. This year, that will be done at the presidential primary on Super Tuesday, March 3.

Carolyn Spangler, who is the Hubbard County DFL chair, was also elected to chair the caucus in Park Rapids.

Resolutions and grass roots politics

Carter Hedeen said he has “been to too many caucuses to count” and believes caucuses are important because it is where people submit resolutions.

“It can be anything that people are concerned about and want support from in the legislature,” he said. “That has nothing to do with the presidential election. It has to do with everything else.” Hedeen said climate change is one issue he hopes to see addressed in a resolution.

He said he will absolutely vote in the presidential primary. “I think it’s a good idea to have a primary because more people can get to it,” he said. “A caucus is just a one-time thing.”

Denise Ristinen is a retired occupational therapist from Straight River Township. “I thought it was time for me to get involved in something at the grassroots level now that I’m retired and have time to maybe do something to help,” she said. “It is my first time at a caucus, so I’m not sure what to expect. I hope to get more informed.”

She said right now she is looking at supporting Amy Klobuchar in the primary. “I’m not sure who my second pick is,” she said.

Jean and Joel Kirchner came to the caucus from Lake Emma Township. Jean is a clinical social worker at a mental health clinic and Joel is a clinical psychologist.


”I’m a member of a National Association of Clinical Social Workers, and they reminded me of resolutions social workers are getting behind this year,” Jean said. Prescription drug affordability, early childhood funding and full implementation of mental health parity are at the top of her list.

She said she will definitely be voting in the presidential primary, but does not know yet who she will be supporting. “I’m still up in the air,” she said.

Jean said there are usually more people at the Park Rapids caucus. “It was packed in 2016,” she said.

Joel said “diehard” people are more likely to caucus, so having a presidential primary will likely mean more participation. “I’m here to support the resolutions and the process,” he said. He said he plans to vote for Joe Biden in the primary.

Local issues and taking care of business

Julie Kjenaas resides in Henrietta Township. “I came to the caucus to see what is going on,” she said. “I want to find out what people are thinking about and feel are issues in Park Rapids.”

She plans to vote on March 3, but said she is still undecided who she will be voting for.

LuAnne White of Hubbard Township is an energy worker and healer. She said she came to the caucus because of interest in issues and resolutions and taking care of local business.

“This is where you start the process of getting them into the platform, so the most important thing we’ll do tonight is to pass resolutions,” she said. “Then also it’s a tradition. I’ve been going since I was 18 and only missed a couple when I lived in the Twin Cities before the days of computers.”


She described attendance as “a really bad turnout” compared to other caucus years.

White was interested in resolutions supporting pollinators, eliminating omnibus bills and supporting automatic voter registration.

“If we don’t get these resolutions in now, they probably won’t get in ever,” she said.

The DFL county convention is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 8 at the Laporte School.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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