Charles City resident Denise Morozov made a few major life changes last year. She took a new job, moved from her home state of Nebraska, switched her party affiliation from Republican to Democrat, and became, for the first time in her life, active in politics.
The 46-year-old is now a precinct captain for Pete Buttigieg, after giving up on the Republican Party following Donald Trump’s election in 2016. It was once she took a job in Charles City last year and was consequently surrounded by the Iowa Caucus political circus that she was introduced to the former South Bend mayor, who was responsible for her conversion to the Democratic Party.
Now, Morozov says she can’t see herself going back.
“Nebraska’s a deep-red state and I was a Republican my entire life,” Morozov said. “I think what turned me onto Pete was the first time I saw his Rules of the Road. And I thought those were values anyone should have in mind, whether you’re Republican or Democrat or who you are … I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of being angry and he’s not. He’s more hopeful, and that’s what drew me to him.”
The candidate tows a more moderate ideological line on the trail with a campaign message of unity and belonging, contrasting his approach from more progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. His commercials feature a speech where he criticized those who saw politics as a “fight.” He’ll routinely quote Scripture during campaign events and is even appearing Sunday for a Fox News town hall at Drake University.
“God does not belong to a political party,” Buttigieg said at a recent Iowa campaign event.
But Buttigieg’s ability to appeal to historically Republican voters may have more to do with his demeanor than his actual policies.
Morozov said she thinks he’s able to attract moderate Democrats and some Republicans because he’s not “shrill,” but she doesn’t think he’s “lukewarm” in his ideas as a Democrat.
“He’s very intelligent, he’s calm, he has the personality and temperament that we need,” she said. “He finds those commonalities that we can agree with. I don’t think that he’s not progressive … What he has done is he has brought me toward the Democrats. I don’t feel like he came towards me, he brought me over.”
And Morozov is not the only Iowan that Buttigieg has been able to bring over from the Republican Party.
After a Buttigieg town hall in Mason City last week, Morozov said she identified a few people in the building that she’s been working with on the campaign who are also not previously Democrats.
“He speaks to a lot of my Republican friends, and I’ve even converted people who are going to switch parties to caucus for Pete,” said Ashley Kuckelman, 55, an Ankeny precinct team member.
Kuckelman said her Republican friends aren’t so different from her, and she’s specifically looking for a candidate that can bridge the gap between them.
“They’re looking for someone who could meet me in the middle with their values. They wouldn’t be my friends if they didn’t share a lot of the same values with me,” Kuckelman said. “They feel like some of the candidates are very left and so when you’re talking about someone who’s so far on the right, they’re looking for someone to unify and meet them in the middle. He’s a veteran, that speaks to them, and that he’s so personable.”
Buttigieg has also driven some Iowans to become immersed in the political sphere.
Julie Klocke, 35, a precinct captain from Ankeny said she too had never been involved in politics but has been driven to do so because she wants Buttigieg to be the nominee so badly.
“I work full time, I’m a mom of three, married, and going back to school as well. I didn’t think I had time to be involved, I thought I’d like to knock a weekend or something like that. But I don’t have time to get really involved,” Klocke said. “After I heard Pete talk, he really spoke to my values and got to my core, and I was like, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get him to be the nominee.”
After attending one organizing meeting and signing a commit to caucus card on the same day, Morozov has been deeply entrenched in gathering more Pete supporters.
“They’re actually running the Get-Out-To-Caucus out of my house in Charles City,” she said. “Last weekend I wasn’t even in town, they did it out of my house and I wasn’t even there.”
Even if the nominee isn’t Buttigieg, Mazorov said she will still vote Democrat at this point.
“Do I tow a party line? There are probably some issues that I’m not as enthusiastic about. But on a whole, that can be okay. And honestly, in the Democratic Party, I feel like you are allowed to disagree, and in the Republican Party, you can’t disagree with anybody. I would much rather be a part of a more inclusive group,” she said. “I’ll absolutely stay Democrat. I can’t see myself going back. Especially with how Republicans are behaving right now. They left me.”
by Isabella Murray