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DFLers support small farms, local schools

Jeremy Vinar of Alexandria, who has announced that he is running against Republican incumbent Mary Franson in House District 8B, drew some of the evening’s loudest applause.

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Mike and Nance Anders of LaGrand Township check in with Joy Wrolson at the registration table before the start of the Douglas County DFL caucus Tuesday night, Feb. 1.
Al Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA – A small but enthusiastic crowd of about 60 people gathered at Discovery Middle School for the Douglas County DFL caucus on a blustery, cold Tuesday night.

This doesn’t include the number of DFLers who, in light of COVID-19, preferred not to attend the meeting in person. They completed non-attendee forms and resolutions in advance or dropped off the forms at the registration table.

“Considering the near blizzard conditions earlier and sub-zero temperatures, I was very pleased with the turnout,” said Douglas County DFL Chair Bonnie Bena. “Several precincts were represented and many volunteers came early and stayed after to help manage the event.”

The biggest issues on caucus-goers’ minds seemed to be support for small farms and local schools, according to Bena.

“One attendee commented on how the school board's policy for written public comments has been helpful,” Bena said. “People are attending the meetings and finding out what the board does.”

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Farming resolutions that were talked about included infrastructure for small farms, regenerative farming, and local control of animal ag operations. Attendees also discussed education, access to quality schools, equitable funding, protection of social security, ranked choice voting, and integrity and honesty from government representatives, Bena said.

Jeremy Vinar of Alexandria, who has announced that he is running against Republican incumbent Mary Franson in House District 8B, drew some of the evening’s loudest applause during a short speech before DFLers split up into their caucus precincts.

Vinar expressed disappointment that Republicans continue to attack the validity of the 2020 elections and are downplaying the significance of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He also said that Republicans are supporting voting restrictions that would undermine free and fair elections and the will of the American people.

Vinar said that since the last election, 19 states with Republican majorities have passed at least 33 laws restricting voting, including banning same-day registration, shortening early voting periods, reducing polling places and ballot boxes, and criminalizing giving food and beverage to people waiting in line to vote.

The stakes are high for the 2022 election, Vinar said. Many Republicans, he said, are campaigning on allowing more flexibility by legislatures and secretaries of state to manipulate election outcomes. “Our power to exercise our voices as we’re doing here tonight, our very democracy, is at stake,” he said.

Vinar said Franson and other Republicans are also undermining medical science and healthcare workers when they spread COVID misinformation. Vinar added that he would stand beside doctors and teachers, not against them, and would dispel misinformation, not spread it.

Vinar told DFLers that they deserve representation from someone who understands the issues, and puts the needs of the people first. “Elect me to advocate for you in Saint Paul, and I’ll show you what it means to put people over politics,” he said.

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Jeremy Vinar of Alexandria, who is running against State Rep. Mary Franson, addresses Douglas County DFLers during their caucus at Discovery Middle School on Tuesday, Feb. 1.
Al Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

Mike and Nance Anders of LaGrand Township were excited about attending the caucus. They’ve been active members of the DFL for quite some time, said Mike. They’ve also served as election judges locally and Nance is a member of the Alexandria Area Indivisible group.

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Why did they choose to attend?

“We wanted to show our support for the DFL, number one,” Mike said.”Democrats are in the minority in Douglas County and we’re hoping to change that. The DFL – Democrats, Farmer, Labor – has a very straight-forward platform that supports issues that are important to people. It’s a good time to be a Democrat.”

The Anders are big supporters of Gov. Tim Walz.

“He’s done a great job steering us through the pandemic, the George Floyd issue and public safety,” Mike said. “There’s a lot to be said for someone who is willing to stand up and make hard choices.”

Carol Wenner of Alexandria, who was attending her third caucus, was looking forward to hearing the DFL resolutions and selecting delegates.

“You’re never too old to learn about the political process, get involved and encourage others to get involved,” Wenner said. “And resolutions are a great way to get things done.”

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Carol Wenner of Alexandria registers with Lynn Barten at the Douglas County DFL caucus Tuesday, Feb. 1.
Al Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

The next step toward the 2022 election will be the Douglas County DFL convention. No date has been set yet, but it will likely take place in early March, Bena said. Senate districts will meet afterward and after redistricting, she said. Delegates will represent Douglas County at the congressional district and state conventions.

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