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Democrats getting ready for the fight

There were no contested races in the DFL party, therefore no straw polls — but more than 100 Democrats from across Crow Wing County gathered Tuesday in the cafeteria at Brainerd High School for the 2014 DFL caucuses.

County residents, representing 62 precincts, listened as elected officials — including state representatives John Ward, DFL-Baxter and Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, who both announced their intentions to run for re-election — spoke about how the DFL party has made huge progress in the state in the past few years and that the Democrats have a lot of hard work to do from now until election time in November to make sure the DFL party stays strong.

Caucuses set in motion which candidates the party will endorse for the fall elections. Since there were no DFL candidates opposing Ward, Radinovich or Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., the party did not have to conduct a straw poll. Crow Wing County DFL Chair Tiffany Stenglein said caucus attendees were electing local party officers for each precinct and coming up with resolutions they want the party to support. Stenglein said some of the resolutions were written ahead of time, such as raising the minimum wage.

From the “Blue Precinct” Crow Wing County DFL board member Kathy Hegstrom said the precinct supported the minimum wage increase, as well as four resolutions that support the public schools.

Stenglein and Hegstrom said the turnout at the caucus is about what they expected, as there were no contested races and it was not a presidential election. More people attend caucuses during presidential elections.

“We have well over 100 people so this shows a lot of support for our party,” said Hegstrom.

Charlie Warner of Nokay Lake Township, who has attended caucuses for the past seven years, said they were supporting the minimum wage increase and the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mining in the Superior National Forest.

Jody Flynn is the only person who attended from Long Lake Township. Flynn said it was the first caucus she had attended and she decided to go because her boyfriend is involved in the caucuses.

“I’ve always been a Democrat,” said Flynn. “I’m excited for the (election) process to begin. Joe (Radinovich) has done a good job and John (Ward) has done good work.”

Radinovich, who represents District 10B, said a lot of good things are happening in the state. He said after years of school cuts, the Democrats are responsible for investing in education by having all-day, everyday kindergarten, money the state owed school districts were paid back and there was a college tuition freeze.

“For the first time we balanced the budget,” said Radinovich, who said the decisions made were difficult, but the party faced them and he is proud of their work.

Radinovich said the DFL party is gaining strength and that the party has the opportunity to continue to make progress in the state.

“We could really turn the tide in Minnesota,” said Radinovich, who told the audience that hard work needs to be done by the people so the party can continue its work.

Ward, who represents District 10A, said the DFLers have their work cut out for them. Ward said the elected officials need the people to help them fight to make sure they can continue to make Minnesota a better place to work and live.

“We are proud to do the work and are proud to represent you,” said Ward. “We couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for you. ... Now your charge is to get the rest of the army gathered for all of us as we march to November.”

Ward said he couldn’t ask for a better person than Radinovich to help serve the citizens. Ward said Radinovich helped author the biggest tax cut for businesses in the history of the state.

Ward said he helped the party with marketing tourism in Minnesota that brought turned an $11 billion industry to a $12.5 billion industry that created 250,000 jobs in Minnesota. As a result, Ward said that Forbes magazine said that Minnesota is the fifth best state in the nation to do business in.

Ward said he thought a long time about whether or not he should run again for election. Ward, who has served almost eight years, said his wife, Sally, told him that he was not done helping people.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER, staff writer, may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at