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With precinct caucuses near, three GOP gubernatorial candidates seem most active

District chairs cite support for Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, state Sen. Dave Thompson and former House Majority Leader Marty Seifert.

Bill Jungbauer, GOP chair in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District and a longtime party leader, has a prediction.

He expects some familiar results when Republican activists attending Feb. 4 precinct caucuses take their first stab at choosing one of six candidates to run against Mark Dayton.

His view: The leading vote-getters will be Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, state Sen. Dave Thompson and former House Majority Leader Marty Seifert.

“I would say the results would be comparable to the [straw poll] at the State Central meeting,” he said. “There might be a small shift in the order, but it won’t be great.”

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A survey of the GOP chairs in other congressional districts indicates those three candidates have been the most active in their outreach to potential delegates to the party’s state convention in May.

“The Johnson campaign has been very active,” said Chuck Roulet, 3rd Congressional District chair.

“In terms of candidates, there’s a lot of buzz for Dave Thompson,” according to Dave Thul, vice chair of the 1st Congressional District.

Meanwhile, in the 8th District, chair Ted Lovdahl reports: “I see Marty Seifert is coming out as one of the strong ones. He’s got a lot of name recognition.”

With more than 4,000 precincts in the state, any snapshot of the possible outcomes on Caucus Night will be blurry.

 But Thompson and Johnson, who have said they will abide by the party endorsement, are a natural fit with party activists who believe the grass-roots endorsement process has more value than a primary.

This year, Seifert has not committed to abiding by a party endorsement but did so in 2010, when he lost the endorsement to Tom Emmer.

GOP congressional chairs are mixed on what kind of turnout to expect for precinct caucuses, which historically draw lower numbers in non-presidential years. And “it is a Tuesday night in February,” noted Roulet.

Jungbauer said he expects “a good turnout” in the 2nd. Meanwhile, Thul in the 1st predicts an above-average turnout, fueled in part by three candidates who want to unseat incumbent Congressman Tim Walz.

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“We’re hearing from people who are asking how to show up, and they say it’s because they’re interested in one of those candidates,” Thul said.

Nancy LaRoche, GOP chair of the 5th Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis, said that she expects numbers equal to 2010 but with some newcomers, too. 

“We identified about 1,200 new voters for the Minneapolis mayor’s race, and we will contact them,” she said. “And we’ve been doing a lot of outreach. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from minority groups within the 5th.”

Republican precinct caucus attendees also will indicate a preference for a U.S. Senate candidate to take on Al Franken.

But in that race, the congressional chairs didn’t see an early frontrunner. The field includes state Rep. Jim Abeler, businessman Mike McFadden and state Sen. Julianne Ortman.