LaPORTE – Having just returned Tuesday afternoon from an extraordinary trip to Iowa to campaign for Mayor Pete, I’m here to add an addendum to my April 11, 2019, column titled “Taking Seriously Buttigieg’s candidacy” to state in no uncertain terms – Mayor Pete can go the distance.

I spent all of this past Saturday and Sunday canvassing for Mayor Pete in neighborhoods in Des Moines (with my new canvas ‘buddy’ South Bend native Claire Gasparetti, who flew in from her home in Charlotte, NC)  and participated as an “observer” for the Buttigieg campaign at a caucus in Johnston, Iowa, about 10 miles outside of Des Moines on Monday night. Mayor Pete’s win in the state in delegate count (which is the true barometer of a ‘win’ in that state) is proof positive that his message of unity and a renewed national purpose is resonating with average voters.

It’s not just the organizational and training effort that Mayor Pete’s staff and volunteers put into Iowa that was rewarded with this win, it’s his personal story and his commitment to restoring decency, honor and a sense of ‘belonging’ to the White House that won the day for us there.

My door-to-door canvassing with Claire on Saturday and Sunday turned up numerous voters who were ”undecided” at that point but also willing to give us a listen when it came to Pete’s story.  I’m also of the belief that Mayor Pete is probably the only candidate who can stitch together the diverse parts of our party to fashion a willing coalition. Exit polls showed him doing well not only with older voters but holding his own with younger voters, who have been Bernie’s base. Furthermore,  I came across several Republican voters who told me that the ONLY Democrat that they would consider voting for was Mayor Pete.  He’s got that rare ability to cross party boundaries with his persistent and authentic calls for national unity. 

In addition to the canvassing, I participated with many others in a training at the Pete field offices on Saturday night to prepare to be caucus observers. We were given instructions to obey the “Prime Directive” which is “non intervention” in our assigned caucus and Pete’s “Rules of the Road,” also to be as helpful as possible for party officials putting on the caucus and to work with the precinct captains there; Iowans assigned by Pete’s campaign.

After arriving at my assigned precinct in Johnston early as instructed, I offered to help set up chairs and tables. Once the gymnasium inside Beaver Creek Elementary School was ready, I moved to the doors of the school where I was able to leaflet for Mayor Pete in the hour leading up to the caucus. It gave me a great opportunity to tell his story to those waiting in line, many of whom were candid in saying they were still undecided up to that moment.  

Once 7 p.m. rolled around, the doors to the school were locked and the 375 caucus goers inside the gym began separating into groups for the various candidates. As an observer I was tabbed to assist with the count for those in the first alignment and then worked alongside Pete’s hardworking precinct chairs for Johnston 4 – Ryan and Emily Osweiler – as we began wooing caucus goers from candidates who were not deemed “viable” in the first round. This was fascinating, retail politics at its best, and was conducted in tremendously civil fashion as neighbors sought to convince neighbors to jump over into committed groups. (At this particular caucus, observers and media weren’t penned into a specific area but were allowed to mix with the caucus-goers.)

Because of the hard work by the Osweilers and so many Pete volunteers who had door-knocked, made phone calls and gained commitments, we had 107 pledges for Pete on the first ballot, compared to 64 for Warren, 74 for Klobuchar and 58 for Biden. Sanders at 46 was not deemed “viable.”  We immediately went to work trying to woo, coax and cajole caucus goers in non-committed groups like Tom Steyer to jump to Pete on the second ballot.  We were able to gain 16 from other groups on the second ballot with Warren picking up most of the Bernie supporters. Mayor Pete won Johnston Precinct 4’s balloting with 123 votes, Warren in seconnd with 93, Klobuchar in third with 80 and Biden rounding out the field with 62.  Because of the formula and rounding though, both Pete and Warren each picked up 3 delegates from that caucus to the district convention with Klobuchar and Biden each receiving 2 delegates.

It’s clearly a shame that some vendor sold the Iowa state party on a smartphone app, for reporting numbers, when this kind of complex calculation turned out to be difficult to enter into the app whereas old-fashioned phoning, faxing or even scanning the worksheets would have prevented the mess  that delayed the reporting of results by nearly a day. 

Anybody who says Democrats are divided need only have attended a caucus like the one I was fortunate to participate in to know that the camaraderie and shared desire by caucus goers to remove Donald Trump from office and end Trumpism once and for all overwhelms any other sentiment.  I count folks like Marty (who was there organizing for Elizabeth Warren) along with Kevin O’Malley (Biden’s observer at the precinct who once served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland) as new friends. I’m already making plans to connect again with Ryan and Emily Osweiler who did such a great job of mobilizing their friends and neighbors to help us win Johnston Precinct 4 for Mayor Pete.

The opportunity to canvass in Des Moines neighborhoods and attend and assist at a caucus at Beaver Creek Elementary in Polk Township was an extraordinary experience for this battle-hardened political veteran who thought he’d seen it all.  

The enthusiasm for Mayor Pete was palpable. As I wrote back in April, 2019, “there’s a boldness, an assertiveness, a fresh vision in Mayor Pete’s candidacy that addresses the anxieties and partisan anger of our era.”  Voters I spoke with in Johnston Precinct 4 understood that and rewarded Mayor Pete with a win.

The crowd of Mayor Pete supporters that gathered Monday night for the rally at Drake University to celebrate victory knew it as well. We’re all involved in something very special and something that all Hoosiers can be proud of. v

Shaw R. Friedman is former legal counsel for the Indiana Democratic Party and a longtime HPI contributor.