Report from Iowa: Md. State Senator at the Caucuses

    Maryland Sen. Cheryl C. Kagan (D) was on the Democratic campaign trail in Iowa on Monday night ― even though her preferred candidate wasn’t part of the first-in-the-nation caucus contest.

    It was a return trip for Kagan, a Democrat representing Montgomery County in the state Senate.

    “I just wanted to feel the energy in the room, see who was present, watch the organizational skills and just get a sense of how those campaigns were looking,” said Kagan, who was registered as an official observer and has endorsed former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg for president. “It’s exciting. I’m a campaign junkie.”

    Scene from a caucus site in Des Moines on Monday. Photo by Clark Kauffman/Iowa Capital Dispatch

    Since landing in Iowa Friday, Kagan attended five different candidate events for former vice president Joe Biden, former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. On caucus night, she visited two precincts in Des Moines.

    Before the wee-hour worrying about whether and when the Iowa Democratic Party would release official results, Kagan posted the results at the two locations she visited. At a smaller precinct with nine delegates up for grabs, Sanders came out on top with three delegates; Biden, Buttigieg and Warren came out with two delegates each. At the larger precinct, Warren emerged the victor, with five delegates, followed by four each for Buttigieg and Klobuchar and three each for Biden and Sanders.

    “I think the most obvious takeaway is that we have a lot of talented candidates,” Kagan said. “…There are pockets of support for each of the candidates. Each of the candidates have real strengths and it will remain to be seen which of the candidates is seen as the most viable to defeat Donald Trump in November.”

    Kagan has also observed the caucuses and campaigned in Iowa in 2008 and 2012.

    In 2008, she was with a group of elected women from Maryland, door knocking for then-candidate Hillary Clinton. When then-Sen. Barack Obama emerged with the most votes that evening, Kagan said she felt excitement rather than disappointment, having seen the process behind the results.

    “Rather than being disappointed, I was exhilarated for having watched the most basic, most grass-roots version of democracy in action,” she said.

    While in Iowa this time around, Kagan said she also saw Washington, D.C., City Council members, who were advocating for D.C. statehood to the presidential candidates. Statehood advocates helped spread their message with a large banner plastered over the side of the campaign bus of former U.S. Rep. John K. Delaney (D) of Maryland, who announced the end of his presidential bid last week.

    Kagan was among many in the Hawkeye State debating the fate of the state’s status as the first major contest in presidential elections.

    “I am a traditionalist in that there is a magic to Iowa and the caucus process,” Kagan said. “At the same time, going from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina does not seem ideally representative of the Democratic electorate.”

    On Monday night, she was chatting with another caucus attendee about 2020 predictions. The other woman told her two things: Bloomberg would be the party’s nominee, and this would be the end of the Iowa caucus process as it exists now.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s right on both accounts,” Kagan said.

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    Danielle E. Gaines
    Danielle Gaines most recently worked for Bethesda Beat covering Montgomery County. Previously, she spent six years at The Frederick News-Post as the paper’s principal government and politics reporter for half that time, covering courts and legal affairs before that. She also reported for the now-defunct The Gazette of Politics and Business in Maryland and previously worked as a county government and education reporter at the Merced Sun-Star in California’s Central Valley.