Locals play role in Iowa Caucuses

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Volunteer Jim Klosterboer counts caucus-goers at the Mendon Democratic precinct at the Marquette Community Center Monday night, determining the viability of groups. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

After months of anticipation, Democratic and Republican voters gathered at each of the state’s 1,681 precincts Monday night to participate in the Iowa Caucuses, an event that, since 1972, has been the first primary season test for presidential candidates seeking their party’s nomination.

“It’s neat to be the first one,” said Democrat Tammy Hamann, who caucused for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the Mendon precinct at the Marquette Community Center. “It’s a big thing.”

“I’m thankful we’re the first,” added Dennis Mason, a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “It’s evident, when you look around the room, the interest and support Iowans have for the politics of the nation.”

Nearly 80 people caucused in Marquette, on pace with 2016’s attendance, organizers estimated. The biggest contingent—earning four of the site’s eight delegates—was for former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“I like his ideas, vitality and cohesiveness,” said Bonnie Pruett.

Sharon Brooks appreciated his call for unity, in addition to his intelligence.

“He’s very well versed on a variety of subjects,” she shared.

To Sandy Stevens, Buttigieg’s moderate status makes him more electable.

A similar sentiment attracted Joey Collins to Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who picked up two delegates at the precinct. 

“She has an ability to work across the aisle,” he said, adding that Klobuchar’s practicality and sense of humor were a plus too. He also thinks it’s time for a female president.

“I’m tired of old men,” he quipped.

Deidre Vick-Froehlich liked Klobuchar’s experience.

“She’s won elections and she’s passed bills in the senate,” she said.

Experience was key for supporters of former vice president Joe Biden as well.

“He has experience working with other countries. We need to work on getting back our allies,” said Larry Breuer. 

Warren’s camp hoped for more change.

“We need organization and critiquing. She has a plan for this and a plan for that,” Hamann said. “[President Donald] Trump has none of that.”

Mason, who also caucused for Sanders four years ago, was attracted to the senator’s dedication to the office and to the people.

“I like his sincerity on issues he’s been defending for decades,” he said.

Sanders earned the remaining two delegates at the Mendon precinct. Warren’s and Biden’s groups failed to meet the 15 percent viability threshold, prompting supporters to consider other options.

No matter who the voters caucused for, many of their key issues in this election aligned. Nearly all cited climate change as their biggest concern, while health care came in a close second. 

Brooks said she’d like to see tax breaks for the wealthy removed.

“Our middle class and farmers are suffering,” she commented.

“Nobody talks about the debt,” Breuer added. “It’s skyrocketed.”

Mason said backing veterans was a priority for him, and Vick-Froehlich referenced women’s rights and immigration reform. Pruett wants to see more separation of church and state.

Buttigieg unofficially wins Clayton County

Like the Mendon precinct, Clayton County as a whole trended toward Buttigieg. Unofficial results have the candidate receiving 23 delegates for the county convention. Klobuchar earned 14, Sanders 11, Biden 10 and Warren 2.

Statewide results delayed

But what started as a night of hope for many ended in confusion for the Iowa Democratic Party, which delayed the release of its caucus results, citing technological “inconsistencies” in reporting. Officials planned to go over the paper trail Tuesday, releasing more details by the end of the day. They claimed the issue was not related to hacking, but a malfunction with the app used to submit results.

Trump overwhelming favorite among Republicans

Meanwhile, in Iowa’s Republican caucus, President Donald Trump was the overwhelming favorite among voters. The incumbent received all of the state’s delegates and 97 percent of votes, beating out former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh.

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