Minneapolis DFLers will take the first step Tuesday toward trying to endorse a candidate in the first open-seat mayor's race the city has seen in 20 years.
The party holds 117 precinct caucuses at sites around the city starting at 7 p.m. Anyone who supports the DFL and will be eligible to vote in the city election this November can participate.
The main order of business will be to elect delegates to the city convention in June. Those delegates will decide which, if any, of the mayoral candidates to endorse.
Candidates Betsy Hodges, Gary Schiff, Don Samuels, Jackie Cherryhomes and Mark Andrew have been working to turn out their supporters to the caucuses. As a result, party officials say they're preparing for relatively heavy turnout, especially in parts of the city that also have competitive City Council races.
In addition to city convention delegates, caucus-goers will also elect delegates to the ward conventions happening over the course of the next month. Those delegates decide who to endorse for City Council.
There are a number of competitive council races on the ballot this year, given that Schiff, Hodges and Samuels are all giving up their seats to run for mayor. Council Members Diane Hofstede and Meg Tuthill face stiff challenges in their re-election bids, and all incumbents have new territory to learn, because of last year's redistricting.
The caucuses are strictly an intra-party affair and have no direct power over who will appear on the ballot, but a DFL endorsement carries weight in this virtually one-party town. Four years ago, every endorsed council candidate won election.
Some candidates have even promised to end their campaigns if someone else gets the party nod, although in the mayor's race, only Schiff has made that pledge unequivocally.
Mayoral candidate Cam Winton isn't participating in the caucuses, because he's not seeking DFL endorsement. Teacher Jim Thomas and perennial candidate Dick Franson have also formed mayoral campaign committees with Hennepin County, but neither has asked to be considered for endorsement. A political unknown named Grant Haas has, but his website has since disappeared, and he has no other discernible efforts to campaign.
DFLers in St. Paul are also caucusing Tuesday, but they're expected to be much quieter. Mayor Chris Coleman has no DFL challenger, yet.
Find your Minneapolis caucus location here.