Eldridge Dems pick a winner

Buttigieg prevails locally, but statewide results remain a mystery


Abandoned Tom Steyer buttons at the Eldridge Community Center told the story.

Audrey Malik and John Kutcher left him behind to support Pete Buttigieg’s victory in both of Eldridge precincts Monday.

The big Eldridge wins surprised even Buttigieg precinct captain Ann Mohr.

“I was confident he’d be viable, and I thought he’d finish strong,” she said at the Eldridge Community Center Monday.

In Eldridge 1, Buttigieg won on the first ballot, then picked up most of the unviable Yang and Steyer voters. In Eldridge 2, he tied Biden atop the first ballot, then picked up 12 more, the biggest surge of all candidates here.

Just 311 of the two Eldridge precincts’ 1,060 registered Democrats showed up for the two-hour caucus.

Malik resisted giving up on Steyer. “He was the outsider. He used a few choice words in the debates. It made me think a moral billionaire could beat an immoral millionaire,” she said. She questions Buttigieg’s electability nationwide. “I hope he runs again in four, or eight years.”

Kutcher liked Steyer, but figured he better have a back-up plan. He positioned his walker near the front, then joined Buttigieg after the first ballot.

“He had the best cookies,” Kutcher said.

Eldridge mayor Marty O’Boyle welcomed caucusers into a community center divided with a row of tables across the skating rink. Eldridge 1 precinct voters sat on the south end in chairs arranged in rows of five to make counting easier. Eldridge 2 voters sat on the north end.

O’Boyle called candidate precinct captains to the center floor for introductions and rules. The captains grouped voters and began a head count. By 7:45 p.m., O’Boyle read the results of the first ballot that put Buttigieg with 38 leading Biden by eight votes in Eldridge 1. Sanders and Warren each won 25 votes. Klobuchar was unviable with 19; Yang got six and Steyer, four.

In Eldridge 2, Buttigieg and Biden tied with 41 votes each. Sanders was next with 28. Warren had 26. Klobuchar was unviable with 19. Yang got four and Steyer, three.

At 8:08 p.m., O’Boyle gave the order to realign, allowing supporters of unviable candidates to move.

In Eldridge 1, Buttigieg picked up five votes to win with 43. Sanders and Warren stayed stuck at 25. Klobuchar picked up four more to finish with 23.

In Eldridge 2,  Buttigieg picked up 12 more votes to win with 53. Biden had 49; Sanders, 28 and Warren, 27.

Robin Griebel cast her first vote ever Monday night in Eldridge.

“I always thought my one little vote never really counted,” she said.

She moved to Eldridge two years ago and said she felt more empowered in a smaller community.

She sat with six other Andrew Yang supporters before moving over to Klobuchar.

North Scott teacher Stacie Kintigh stuck with fourth-place finisher Warren, who best fit her thoughts on healthcare, education and environmental reform.

She didn’t attend any campaign events, but got plenty of mail and phone calls. She got to be on a first-name basis with a Buttigieg rep.

“Mayor Pete’s guy, Andy, would call all the time,” she said. But he couldn’t convince Kintigh to abandon her support for Warren’s Medicare for all.


'Makes me feel good to be an American'

Trey Petersen was more passionate about the event than his candidate. He’s an independent who registered Democrat to support Bernie Sanders. “I don’t like either party, but I feel strongest about Bernie,” he said. “But it makes me feel good to be an American to be here and see this happening.”

Ellen Reynolds ended up with Sanders, too. “I didn’t see a single person under 25 in the Biden section,” she said.

Amy Klobuchar fell below viability in Eldridge precinct 2, but finished fifth in Eldridge 1. Junior high principal John Hawley was among Klobuchar supporters courting the Yang and Steyer backers.

His dad, Don, sat with the Buttigieg crowd.

Klobuchar supporter Connie Owings convinced Lydia King to leave the Yang camp.

“I prefer Pete. But Andrew Yang asked us to bring as many into the process as we can,” said King, who went to school with Owings’ son.

Four of Yang’s Eldridge 1 supporters helped push Klobuchar to a viable finish.

Buttigieg earned his Eldridge win with person-to-person campaigning, his precinct captain said.

“We followed Pete’s ‘rules of the road,’” Mohr said. That includes no mailings and no random phone calls. “We called only people we knew. We talked about things that were important to them. The campaign rule was never criticize another candidate.”

As caucus organizers collected cards, and Community Center staff began the clean-up, Jeff DeLeon sat alone, still undecided between Warren and Sanders.