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Obama the overwhelming favorite in Becker County vote

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Illinois Senator Barack Obama grabbed the majority of presidential straw-poll voting in Democratic caucuses throughout the state of Minnesota Tuesday -- and Becker County was no exception.

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Obama received 262 votes in the Becker County straw poll, to 172 votes for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

No other candidate's vote total went beyond single digits; there were also six votes listed as "uncommitted."

Television networks began projecting Obama the Minnesota winner at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, when he jumped to a 64 percent to 34 percent lead over Clinton, with 28 percent of precincts reporting.

A total of 449 votes were counted in the Becker County DFL precinct caucuses at the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center Tuesday night -- which according to County DFL Chair Dave Erickson, exceeded the previous attendance record "by a lot."

"The previous record was around 270," he said.

"I've been going to caucuses for 55 years, and I've never seen anything like this," said Marge Johnson of Lake Park.

"We even had six people for (the city of) Lake Park, when we normally get just one or two," Johnson added.

"I was very pleased -- it's a great turnout," said David Stowman, a DL attorney who acted as convener for the caucuses.

"It's a huge turnout," agreed Carolyn Engebretson of rural Rochert, adding that she feels a big part of the reason for the increased number of participants is dissatisfaction with the current administration's performance.

"People are looking for a change," she said.

Erickson also felt the current state of the nation's economy was a factor, as was the conflict in Iraq and the "war on terror."

And there are historic possibilities to consider as well, Erickson added.

"There's a chance to do a real first -- to elect either a female or an African American to be president of the United States," he said, noting that there's also a distant possibility that Obama and Clinton could end up together on the same election ticket next fall (i.e., one of them could decide to run for vice president if they fail to win the DFL presidential nomination).

The record attendance at the Becker County DFL caucuses mirrored those held elsewhere in the state.

Turnout at Democratic caucuses across Minnesota was "unprecedented," DFL Party Chairman Brian Melendez said.

Caucus rooms were reported full in many locations -- including Becker County, where one precinct caucus was moved from the Holmes Ballroom into the Senior Nutrition Center, located in the basement -- and traffic jams occurred near caucuses in both Twin Cities and rural areas.

Democratic caucus-goers also had a little more at stake, as their vote would decide how the state votes for a presidential candidate at the DFL national convention.

In addition, the caucus voters also elected delegates for the Becker County DFL convention, which is set to take place March 1 at Detroit Lakes' Rossman Elementary School, starting at 10 a.m.

Among the items to be considered at that convention will be several resolutions that were passed at Tuesday's caucuses.

Some of those resolutions include:

--A call for the county's Democratic Party to go on re-cord in favor of full public financing of all campaigns for state and federal offices;

--A call for the party to petition the Becker County Board of Commissioners to allow the existing County Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Policy Committee adequate time and resources to complete its work;

-- A call for the party to support passage of the "Protecting Our Water, Our Land, and Our Way of Life" amendment at the November 2008 general election.

(State Capitol Bureau reporters Don Davis and Scott Wente contributed information for this story.)

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