Buttigieg leads Iowa, Sanders 2nd; woman asks to change her vote after learning he is gay

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Pete Buttigieg seized a shock lead Tuesday in Iowa’s debut US presidential nomination vote, according to partial Democratic Party results that placed Bernie Sanders in close second and national frontrunner Joe Biden a distant fourth.

The first wave of results, following a delay due to technical issues in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses, gives a major boost to the campaign of Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana who has trailed the frontrunners for months but surged at the right time.

And it marked a disappointing start for Biden, who has repeatedly stressed on the campaign trail that he is the candidate best-positioned to defeat President Donald Trump in November’s election.

With 62 percent of precincts reporting, Buttigieg leads with 26.9 percent of what Iowa calls the state delegate equivalent, the all-important metric that determines the allocation of delegates who choose the Democratic nominee at the party’s national convention.

Sanders, the senator running as a self-declared democratic socialist and who had led the polling in Iowa, was closely behind at 25.1 percent, with fellow progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren at 18.3 percent

Biden, the best-known moderate in the race, was at 15.6 percent, narrowly ahead of Senator Amy Klobuchar, also a centrist, with 12.6 percent.

Buttigieg said: “This is really the first proof point for how we’re building the campaign that is ultimately going to go on to defeat (Donald) Trump” in November’s presidential election.

According to Buttigieg’s website, citing results from 1,200 of the nearly 1,700 precincts in the midwestern state, he earned the support of 24.7 percent of the 152,000 voters who took part in Monday’s caucuses, the kickoff of the presidential nominating season.

Meanwhile, an Iowa woman who supported Buttigieg asked to change her vote when she learned the candidate is gay. She cited her religious beliefs for doing so.

“Are you saying that he has a same-sex partner? Are you kidding?” the woman, wearing a “Pete 2020” sticker, asked a caucus organizer, known as a precinct captain, in rural Iowa.

The exchange was caught on a video which quickly went viral online.

“Well then I don’t want anybody like that in the White House. So can I have my card back?”

The Buttigieg precinct captain in Cresco, Iowa earned praise Tuesday for her measured, compassionate reaction in which she sought to reassure the unidentified woman that a candidate’s sexuality is not a concern.

“I would like you to just dig deep inside and think, should it matter if it’s a woman or if it’s a man or if they’re heterosexual or homosexual, if you believe in what they say?” says the caucus official, identified online as Nikki Heever.

Buttigieg, who would become the nation’s first openly gay president if elected, has spoken about his Christian faith while campaigning.

“Well he’d better read the Bible,” said the woman.

Heever told her that Buttigieg does, and that she respects her viewpoint.

“I just ask you to look inside your heart, because you sound like a Christian woman to me and I’m a Christian woman, and my God wants me to love everybody,” Heever said.

The exchange, notable for its amicable tone despite a subject matter that has been a political flashpoint for years, highlights a potential hurdle for Buttigieg.

Polls show mixed results regarding whether Americans would be comfortable with an openly gay president. Internal focus group data obtained by the McClatchy news organization last year showed that many black voters, an important Democratic constituency, could view Buttigieg’s sexuality as a barrier.

Although the Iowa Democratic Party had on Tuesday not yet released any official results from Monday’s caucuses, Buttigieg and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders claimed victory in the process to choose state Democrats’ pick to challenge Republican Donald Trump in November’s election.

Buttigieg, a polyglot Rhodes scholar, is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and served in Afghanistan as a US Navy intelligence officer.

Last year his same-sex marriage to Chasten Glezman was widely covered in U.S. media as Americans mulled the prospect of a same-sex couple in the White House.

“I never heard it,” the woman insisted.

It is not clear whether she ultimately changed her vote, but Heever stressed that Buttigieg’s sexuality “shouldn’t really matter.”

“Love is love,” she told the woman. “We’re all human beings.”

© 2020 AFP

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