As Democratic officials scramble in Iowa to pick up the pieces after a disastrous caucus night that has left the nation waiting to learn who won, the state’s earliest gathering of voters happened in a decidedly non-Iowan venue and had a clear outcome.
For the first time ever, Iowans who reside part time in Arizona were able to caucus, and some 160 of them showed up to a Harkins movie theater in Queen Creek, where some sipped soda and munched on popcorn as the group chose Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar as their favored presidential nominee.
Klobuchar earned 54 votes from the Iowans in attendance. Trailing her were South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 41, former Vice President Joe Biden at 33 and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren with 31.
The vote gives Klobuchar three delegates to the state party. Buttigieg, Biden and Warren each earned two delegates.
The Queen Creek caucus was one of four in Arizona, but it was the largest one – and the only one in Maricopa County – and it opened earlier than any of the other 100 or so satellite caucus locations.
Although many of the caucus-goers had different preferred candidates when the meeting began, all had the same goal: choosing a nominee who was strong enough to defeat President Donald Trump in November.
Everyone also agreed that getting the chance to participate, even though they were more than 1,000 miles from home was a welcome change.
“It’s an opportunity to talk to your neighbors,” Julie Allen, an Elizabeth Warren supporter, said of her experiences in previous caucuses. She cited Warren’s financial plans, teaching history and background in the Senate as why she supported the senator.
For Allen, though, the Democratic field offered a bevy of candidates that she felt she could support. Buttigieg in particular was one she was particularly fond of, and she said Warren selecting the young mayor as her running mate would be her “dream ticket.”
Gary Jackovim said the satellite location is something that the Iowa Democratic party should have done a long time ago, given how many retirees leave Iowa in the winter to come to places like Arizona.
Jackovim, who has participated in two other caucuses, backed Klobuchar. He said he liked her moderate stances, adding that he was looking for a candidate that could talk to people on the other side of the aisle.
Suzanne Hafstand and her husband, Donald, echoed Jackovim’s sentiment, stating that a more moderate Democrat with “Midwestern values” could more likely beat Trump in November and would have a wider appeal.
Both Hafstands rejected ideas posed by progressive candidates Warren and Bernie Sanders, such as Medicare for all or “free college,” which they said were “good ideas” but not realistic, adding that they would likely scare away more moderate voters.
Nearly 200 people pre-registered to attend Monday’s caucus in Queen Creek, according to Joan Koenigs, Iowa Caucus Chair for the Queen Creek site. Initially, she had planned to hold the caucus in her home, but it was quickly determined that it would need to be held at a larger venue.
“The numbers kept growing and there was no going back,” Koenigs said to the theater full of mostly white retirees about planning for the satellite caucus.
Before voting began, a representative for each candidate was given one minute to give a speech to hopefully persuade people to their candidate of choice.
Jack Kibbie, a former Democratic Iowa state senator, threw his support behind Biden, saying he is “the best chance of beating the worst” and brought up comments made by Trump about brain injuries sustained by U.S. troops during a missile attack by Iran as proof of the President’s unfitness for the office.
Marti Wade, a Klobuchar supporter, echoed sentiments by other supporters that her moderate stances and “Midwestern values” make her best suited to beat Trump. Wade wore a shirt with the slogan “Amy Klobuchar will beat Donald Trump.”
Natalie Murphy, an ASU student who is voting for the first time and is at her first caucus, spoke in support of Buttigieg, telling the attendees that his military service and his experience in the Midwest will help give him a new vision that is needed in the White House.
One of the more awkward moments of the night came when a supporter of Michael Bloomberg took to the microphone. Up until that moment, every candidate had gotten applause from the audience when the candidate’s name was mentioned. That did not happen for Bloomberg.
“I just wanted to let people know there are people in this state who support him,” the supporter stated to the crowd before quickly walking away from the microphone.
Bloomberg received two votes.
A Bernie Sanders supporter named Douglas told the crowd that those in support of Sanders “love Bernie because of his progressive agenda.” Sanders received only seven votes.
Another candidate similar to Bloomberg also had a few supporters at the Arizona caucus: California billionaire Tom Steyer received two votes.
Cindy Brown said she supported him due to his ability to not be “beholden to other people’s money.” One Steyer voter eventually defected to the Biden camp.