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June, 2000

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Michael Lewis

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Hugh Gitlin

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Hugh's Views

Attendance at this year's precinct caucuses was down about 33% statewide. Why did this happen, who is to blame. The answer is three different groups: the State DFL, the county units, and the candidates.

The State party through the central committee mandated the Saturday caucuses (under full disclosure, I voted for the plan). The central committee gave the staff great leeway on how to publicize the change. We (the central committee) dropped the ball, we should have given more direction to staff.

The county units (or senate districts in the metro area and St. Louis County) had opportunities to use free media, mailing, phoning and other local ways to get people out to the caucuses. Instead, the CUs played an Alphonse and Gaston scene with the state; waiting for the people on Wacouta to do their job for them.

In the past, the candidates drove the attendance at the caucuses. The candidates would call past caucus attendees, party donors and others that might show up to support that candidate. When was the last time any non-leader was called by a candidate to show up at the caucuses? In the last 10 years, the candidates have gone to the call the state delegates, thinking that that subset is the one that endorses. The problem with that thinking is ownership of the endorsement. The more people who participate in the first step, the stronger the endorsement; one of the arguments that the people who run against the endorsed candidates is the lack of attendance at the caucuses. The candidates, especially the 4 who will abide by the endorsement, should have seen that.

So, how do we increase attendance in 2000? We start next November. We make a quick decision on the date of the 2002 caucuses. We start educating CU leadership on using free media and other ways to increase attendance. We urge the candidates to have a “get out and caucus” plan. Any single part of the party cannot increase attendance by themselves. Only if the three parts; state, local and candidates working together can we increase attendance.

Hugh Gitlin
4th Congressional District DFL Secretary
  
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