They may have been preaching to a choir, but six Minnesota DFL candidates urged a group of enthusiastic students and community members at Winona State Wednesday evening to get out and vote in next week’s elections.

Winona was just one stop in the party’s six-day bus tour leading up to Nov. 4, which includes stops across the state, from Virginia in the north to Albert Lea in the south.

Kryzsko Commons was packed with folks sporting Dayton-Smith stickers and Al Franken t-shirts, who burst into applause when the candidates took the stage; neither of the two names were present, having attended tour events earlier in the day. First District Congressman Tim Walz thanked the audience for attending.

“You chose to be here because you love your country,” he said. “Being involved in the process is critically important.”

The mood at the event was optimistic, but state auditor incumbent Rebecca Otto stressed that an election is never over until it’s over.

“It’s who turns out that actually determines who wins,” she said. “It’s always, always in the numbers.”

So the bus tour was one way to make sure those numbers show up on Election Day.

But beyond the get-out-and-vote message, Otto said for her office especially, the statewide tour emphasizes her statewide focus. “No one place is more important than the other,” she said.

Winona State history major Garrick Hoekstra, who’s also the campus DFL leader, has seen firsthand the misconception there’s nothing worth fighting for in politics, he said.

“It’s always a real struggle to reach out to students,” Hoekstra said, even though issues like tuition rates and minimum wage laws have immediate and direct effects on student lives, he noted.

Steve Simon, a state representative running for secretary of state, focused on Minnesota’s history of strong voter turnout. For nine elections in a row, Minnesota has led the nation in voter turnout, Simon said, but now is not the time to rest on that victory.

He pointed out Minnesota’s recent defeat of a voter ID law, and the no-excuse absentee voting law he helped pass.

“We care that people vote. We want to make it easier, not harder,” he said.

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