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Cottage Grove-area Democrats hope enthusiasm grows

Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, talks to DFLers at their Senate District 57 caucus in Cottage Grove Tuesday. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente

Cottage Grove-area Democrats say their small caucus turnout doesn't represent party enthusiasm entering a major election year.

Only about 55 to 60 people turned out to caucus Tuesday in Cottage Grove precincts of Senate District 57, only a fraction of the turnout in the last presidential election year - 2008 - but also noticeably lower than attendance two years ago.

House District 57A DFL Chairwoman Diana Tunheim attributed this year's turnout to the fact that there is no contested presidential race in the party and many activists didn't get involved at the caucus level because they do not know what legislative district they will be in after new boundaries are announced later this month.

Still, Tunheim said interest is strong among local activists, particularly for the area's legislative seats. She said more than 100 people have emailed her since the beginning of the year offering to campaign and volunteer for the party in 2012.

"I'm seeing a lot of that," Tunheim said.

Much of Democrats' attention was on legislative races.

Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, urged caucus-goers to sign up to help her campaign. She narrowly won re-election two years ago and could face a rematch with GOP candidate Karin Housley, depending on a judicial redistricting decision expected Feb. 21.

Sieben told Democrats that since Republicans took control of the Legislature they have pushed a "right-wing social agenda" that contrasts starkly with the agenda DFLers pushed when they led the House and Senate.

"It really, really is important, and the stakes couldn't be higher now," she said.

Some Democrats said they are concerned that more DFLers are not active yet in a year when President Obama is on the ballot with Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and all state legislative races.

"I don't think it's there yet," caucus participant Matt Cory, a high school teacher who first caucused in 2008, said of strong election-year enthusiasm. "I think it's underlying with party faithful."

Check back for more on Democrats' outlook for the 2012 elections.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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