MARSHALL - Lyon County Republicans came to Tuesday night's precinct caucuses with some choices to make, not least being their choice for a U.S. presidential nominee. By the end of the evening, that choice was pretty clear, and not too surprising, some caucus attendees said.
Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum had a strong lead in the Lyon County straw polls, with 128 out of a total 217 votes. In addition to casting votes in the straw poll, area residents also elected precinct officers and delegates for the Lyon County Republican convention on Feb. 25.
At Grace Life Church in Marshall, both caucus voters and observers filled - and in some cases overflowed - meeting rooms. Early in the evening, it was difficult to tell whether the turnout for precinct caucuses was larger or smaller than usual, board members said. Part of what made it hard to compare was high turnouts in 2010.
A good-size crowd turned out at Grace Life Church in Marshall on Tuesday night for the
"Two years ago we had a lot of people, because Marty Seifert was on the ballot," for Minnesota governor, said Bob Meffert, co-chairman of the Lyon County Republicans.
The number of people attending the Republican caucuses this year may have been affected by voters actually having a chance to hear from the candidates, said David Sturrock.
"We're lucky we only have three states holding caucuses tonight, so the candidates have time to devote to all three," Sturrock said.
District 21A House Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, who visited the Marshall caucus after attending Minneota's caucus, said the turnout there also seemed good. Voters filled the Minneota High School library, he said.
Some people attending Tuesday's caucuses said they weren't surprised by the support shown for Santorum.
"I think Republicans are looking for an alternative to Mitt Romney," one caucus attendee said.
"I think it depends on the region," said Josh Anderson, a Southwest Minnesota State University student who was attending the caucus. Communities where the people are more socially conservative would be likely to vote for a candidate that fit their values, he said. Anderson said fiscal and economic policies were also areas of concern for him.
Area residents weren't as sure how the intense competition in the Republican presidential race would affect voters. For some, it was a definite turnoff. If campaign tactics get too negative, "You vote for the person who's not bashing everybody," said Angela McClure.
But others, like Anderson, said the negativity seemed more like a side effect of modern technology and media.
"Sixty or 70 years ago, you didn't have YouTube," Anderson said. "You weren't able to go on the Internet and look up negative information about a candidate."
The Lyon County Republican convention will be at 9 a.m. Feb. 25, at the Marshall Area YMCA.