Caucusgoers around Iowa struggled to settle on a candidate this election cycle, and many flocked to caucus sites on Monday night still not having made up their minds.
At one of the busiest precincts in one of the most liberal parts of the state, overflowing City High School’s Opstad Auditorium in Iowa City, a number of those who had been undecided swung their support to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
“I like that she’s strong on women’s rights, and it is important to show our children a woman can be president,” said Maura Casey, 41, who made her choice that night.
Casey was among the precinct’s 875 participants. Warren gained the most support at the precinct, and she, along with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, earned five delegates each. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar took two delegates, mustering additional support after not being viable after a first count.
As recently as a week ago, 45 percent of likely Iowa caucusgoers were still open to changing their minds on caucus night, according to a Monmouth University poll. This left a lot of room for unpredictability to start the 2020 Democratic nominating process.
James Davies, 36, a construction project manager in Iowa City, was among 650 people cramming into a different precinct based in the school’s cafeteria. He wanted to let the event begin and “try to feel out other voters” before committing.
“It’s really down to electability,” Davies said, noting he was leaning toward Buttigieg or Klobuchar. “I wanted to see who has the momentum and who is viable. I am concerned for who is going to be able to get elected and also who can get things done.”
Warren won that precinct as well.
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Casey, who ultimately went with Warren, was also considering Buttigieg. and her husband Phil Seebeck, 43, supported Warren over Sanders because he did not think the Vermont senator would get a fair shake from the Democratic National Committee.
“Trump is a disgrace,” Casey said. “Ever since he got elected, I’ve voted in every single election, including school board and city council. We realize we need to have our voices heard.”
Getting President Donald Trump out of office was the top motivation for some — before topics such as climate change, women’s reproductive rights or health care.
“I won’t vote for Trump,” said Judy Sweeney, 73, who was caucusing at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School. “I like the way we do this. All opinions are welcomed.”
She had been considering Warren and Buttigieg.
John Frett, 61, a retired letter carrier, who last caucused in 2000, came to share his preference at Coe College athletic recreation center in Cedar Rapids. He moved into the Warren camp.
“The current administration gets under my skin,” Frett said. “All of these candidates are good. I just want somebody that can beat Trump.”
Synona Colbertson, 44, caucusing at Jefferson High School in Cedar Rapids, decided to join the “Yang Gang” a week or so ago after initially supporting New Jersey Sen Cory Booker. “He makes a lot of sense,” Colbertson said of Yang.
Steve Goldin, 75, of Cedar Rapids, caucused for Klobuchar at Cedar Rapids Washington.
“She’s from the Midwest, with Midwest values and experience,” Golden said. “And she’s a woman. It’s time for a change — with different attitudes, more quality and equality.”
North Liberty, Coralville
Angelique Rivera, 43, caucusing in North Liberty, said she based her preference on values.
“Literally, I made my decision about an hour ago,” Rivera said, referring to Sanders. “Bernie holds my values. He will fight for us. I had to go with my values.”
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While Rivera was firmly in Sanders’ camp, she added, “I will support whoever the nominee is 120 percent.”
In Coralville, Joe Bainbridge, a 69-year-old retired pharmacist from Coralville, said newspaper endorsements in recent weeks helped him decide to caucus for Klobuchar.
“It was my feeling I would not have trouble voting for any of the current candidates, but after reading the endorsements, I thought “O.K. I’m going to caucus for Klobuchar.”
Some candidates, including Sanders, are in constant attack mode, Bainbridge said. He thinks the next president will need more diplomacy. Klobuchar “works across the aisle. And she’s got a lot of experience in Congress,” Bainbridge said.
Roxanne Portzline, 63, a retired Coggon resident, went to the Republican caucus at North Linn High School to support Trump because she likes what he’s accomplished while in office.
She said she was a registered Democrat until the last two Obama administrations when she switched to Independent.
“I don’t like the conflict with the two parties,” she said.
Gazette reporters Thomas Friestad, Grace King, Lee Hermiston, Erin Jordan, Jeff Linder, Diana Nollen, Erin Jordan, Jeff Linder, Trish Mehaffey contributed to this report.
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