ST. PAUL — Voters around the state cast ballots Friday, Jan. 17, in Minnesota's presidential primary contests. For the first time since 1992, voters began weighing in in the contest in partisan primaries, a change from partisan caucuses.
While the primary isn't until March 3, snowbirds preparing to flee to warmer climates, eager supporters of various candidates and first-time voters and their family members said they wanted to be some of the first in the nation to help determine who would make it to the ballot in November.
Democrats had a slate of 15 candidates from which to choose, while Republicans had one name on the ballot, President Donald Trump's, along with a write-in option.
Around the state, surrogates for different campaigns were slated to rally and help get voters out to the polls Friday.
Minnesotans were some of the first in the nation to vote and they proudly displayed their "I voted" stickers and buttons. In the parking lot of the Ramsey County Early Voting Center, a group of about 15 voters supporting Sen. Amy Klobuchar cheered "first in the nation" after they huddled for a photo.
Klobuchar's campaign manager, Justin Buoen, gave supporters an update in the parking lot, saying Klobuchar was picking up steam and endorsements in Iowa and New Hampshire after the most recent Democratic debate to muffled applause from mittened hands.
Jeff Kelberg, 60, said he attended the early morning rally Friday and voted for Klobuchar because he felt the Minnesota senator would be a good fit for the presidency.
“She believes in getting first downs instead of trying to go for a touchdown," Kelberg said. "She’s able to get things done."
And just ahead of him in line were Doreen Eddy and John O’Connell, of St. Paul, who said they brought their granddaughter Layla Scharpf, 18, to vote for the first time.
“We dragged her out early this morning so her first experience was with us,” Eddy said. All three, adorned with their buttons supporting Klobuchar, said they voted for the senator.
Joci Tilsen, 69, said she came in to cast her ballot early for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., ahead of a trip south that would keep her away from Minnesota beyond March 3.
“I really wanted to make my vote count for Warren. I’m excited about having a woman president who is so super qualified and experienced and a policy person,” Tilsen said. “I think we live in a country that hates women. I want that to change and I’m hopeful.”
In Minneapolis, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN05 held rallies for Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, and his supporters turned out to the polls early Friday to issue their support to the Democratic hopeful.
Alexandra Pederson, a 27-year-old server living in Minneapolis, said she was excited to be among the first in the nation to take her pick from the field of Democrats. After watching Tuesday's latest candidate debate, Pederson she was positive in her choice to support Sanders.
Standing in line to vote at the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, she said her priorities this election cycle have "been bopping all over the boards for the last year and a half, from universal health care, to tuition-free college, to now our foreign relations."
Pederson said turning 26 years-old was a "huge moment" for her, forcing her off her family's health insurance plan. She said she had difficulty navigating the system, and ultimately paid hundreds of dollars per month for private insurance.
"It still financially has set me back a year and a half later," she said.
For Kora Ektanitphong, 32, and Daniel Ringgenberg, 28, who own local Dinkytown restaurant Burrigato, the top priority is to get money out of politics. Both have canvased for Sanders and turned out to support him at Friday's polls.
"I think that is the root for every single problem we have," Ektanitphong said. "Climate change, Medicare for all, education, the income gap. ... Our politicians are selling us out and they're making a business out of their office."
Fewer Republicans appeared to turn out to the Twin Cities early voting centers Friday, but GOP leaders said the president would have Minnesota's support.
"While Democrats fight it out to determine who can be the most radical, far-left candidate, Republicans across the state are energized and excited to show their support for President Donald Trump," Minnesota GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan said in a news release.