Pete Buttigieg took a narrow lead in the first batch of long-delayed results on Tuesday from the chaotic Iowa Democratic Party caucuses, and former Vice President Joe Biden trailed badly in fourth place with about 62% of precincts reporting.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders was a close second and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren placed third in the first results, released nearly 21 hours after Iowans poured into more than 1,600 public locations to begin the five-month process of picking a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump.
In Tuesday’s first results of state delegate equivalents, the data traditionally reported to determine the winner, Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, had 26.9%, Sanders 25.1%, Warren 18.3% and Biden 15.6%. Senator Amy Klobuchar was fifth at 12.6%.
Buttigieg, 38, would be the first openly gay U.S. president if elected. A military veteran, he served in Afghanistan and spent two terms as mayor of South Bend, a city of 102,000 people.
Speaking to supporters in Laconia, New Hampshire, after the early results were announced, Buttigieg said he had begun the race a year ago with four staff members, no name recognition and no money, but with “a big idea.”
Buttigieg has argued it is time for a new generation of leaders in the party and that his lack of experience in Washington makes him an ideal candidate to break the partisan gridlock in the nation’s capital.
“A campaign that some said should have no business even making this attempt, has taken its place at the front of this race to replace the current president with a better vision for the future,” Buttigieg said.
Sanders, 78, was ahead in the popular vote, which is not used to determine the delegates who will cast ballots at the Democratic National Convention in July. An independent, Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist.