No results from Iowa, but a satellite caucus in Palm Springs reports a winner: Amy Klobuchar

Palm Springs Iowa caucus
Michelle Nash, a precinct captain for Amy Klobuchar, gathers caucusgoers at the Palm Springs Public Library.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Moderate Democrats took the lead in Palm Springs on Monday as more than 100 Iowans converged in the desert town for one of the largest satellite caucuses outside of Iowa.

For the first time, the Iowa Democratic Party held satellite caucuses across the United States and abroad on Monday in a bid to make voting more accessible for Iowans living temporarily in other places. After an hour and 15 minutes of polite negotiating among the different Democratic camps in Palm Springs, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar won with 49 votes, with Joe Biden trailing behind with 29 and Pete Buttigieg with 21. None of the remaining Democratic candidates received enough votes to be deemed “viable.”

Iowa caucus rules require voters to form groups organized by candidate. To be declared viable and move to the second alignment, a candidate must secure at least 15% of the vote. In the first round of voting in Palm Springs, Klobuchar led with 41 votes, prompting supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to try to unite the left flank of the party around one candidate in an unsuccessful bid for viability.


Mark Bennett, 69, a retired federal district judge from Des Moines who has visited Palm Springs each winter for the last five years, proudly donned an “Amy” sticker as he helped propel her to victory in the caucus.

“Sen. Klobuchar kind of matches my centrist philosophy,” Bennett said. “I think she’s super smart, super gritty.”

Like Bennett, many of the 108 Iowan caucusgoers who converged in the atrium of Palm Springs Public Library, were snowbirds drawn to the city’s mild winter climate. Some made the commute from as far south as Encinitas and as far west as Los Angeles, prompting organizers to scramble to find a new time and enough room to accommodate about four times as many registered caucusgoers than originally expected.

Many of the younger voters, who supported Sanders and Warren, left the caucus disappointed.

“I knew what I was getting into going to Palm Springs,” said Jane Keranen, a 21-year-old Sanders supporter and USC student who had made a two-hour journey to Palm Springs from Los Angeles. “I figured the demographic would lean more toward a centrist, liberal perspective.”


In the end, Keranen watched helplessly as the Sanders and Warren camps came to a stalemate without any resolution before members broke off and left to support other candidates, including Klobuchar.

Even though she thought her vote ultimately went nowhere — she did not realign to support another candidate — Keranen said she was glad she made the trip to Palm Springs.

“I’ll be ready to vote for whoever the blue ticket is in the fall,” she said. “Hopefully it’s someone more progressive than who Palm Springs chose.”

Michelle Nash, a precinct captain for Klobuchar, said the result came as a surprise. After the first round of voting, Klobuchar received support from the Tom Steyer and Warren camps.

“More people kept on sitting down at the Amy table and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger,” she said as a Biden supporter congratulated her. “We were just shocked.”

“I think she was a lot of people’s second choice,” she added.

In addition to nearly 1,700 voting precincts across the Iowa, Iowans caucused at 87 satellite caucus locations.

While most of the satellite caucuses were held in Iowa — at retirement homes, Islamic centers, hospitals, YMCAs, union halls and college campuses, among other venues — others were held in states including Arizona and Wisconsin, and overseas, in locations such as Scotland, France and the Republic of Georgia.


At Stanford University, 30 Iowans voted primarily for Sanders and Warren. After an intense bout of realignment, 15 voted for Sanders, 10 for Warren and five for Klobuchar.

Iowa is traditionally the first state in the nation to vote in the presidential nominating process. Due to time differences, Iowans living abroad were able to vote hours ahead of the pack.

At 9 a.m. Central time, three people convened in Tbilisi, Georgia, where it was 7 p.m. They ate pizza with ranch dressing and drank local white wine at a table festooned with Iowa’s red, white and blue tricolor flag.

Many of those who gathered to caucus outside the state brought a Midwestern flair to their gatherings.

In Glasgow, Scotland, a group of 19 Iowa voters met in an apartment decorated with images of corn stalks and slogans from the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams.” After feasting on popcorn and puppy chow, a Midwestern delicacy of Chex cereal, chocolate and peanut butter, they ended up with a final score of nine for Sanders, six for Warren and three for former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. One voter refused to realign.

The more liberal wing of the party also fared well in Paris, where the final result was eight for Warren, six for Sanders and three for Klobuchar.


“It was everything I wanted it to be — spirited, lively, friendly,” said Colyn Burbank, a 31-year-old student working toward a master’s degree in social work at the University of Strathclyde, who hosted the Glasgow satellite at his flat and then carried on the debate in his local pub. “Everyone was Iowa nice.”

A native of Des Moines who supports Sanders, Burbank said he was gratified that his first choice won.

Living abroad has only strengthened his belief that America needs a major healthcare system overhaul, he added.

“Universal healthcare is a no-brainer,” he said. “The healthcare system is not perfect in Scotland, but it’s a heck a lot of better than in America. This is Bernie’s thing.”

Burbank said he hoped the Scottish result would bode well for Sanders. But just as his hometown state isn’t exactly representative of America — its population of 3.1 million voters is more than 90% white — he acknowledged that his tiny caucus was just a small part of Iowa.

“Iowans traveling to a caucus in Glasgow,” he said. “We’re a bubble within a bubble within a bubble.”