Pete Buttigieg, the most successful openly gay candidate in U.S. history, is clinging to a lead in the bungled counting process in the first electoral test in the 2020 presidential campaign.

After technical problems delayed official results, with 86 percent of the vote counted Thursday morning in the Iowa caucuses the 38-year-old Buttigieg’s campaign is leading with 26.7 percent of the vote. Bernie Sanders is behind him with 25.4 percent of the vote. Elizabeth Warren is in a distant third with 18 percent of the vote.

The counting has been irregular and there’s no indication whether Buttugieg’s  lead will hold.

“Mayor Pete,” as he has called, was the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a relatively small town in the American Midwest. He served as an intelligence office in the Army Reserve, went to Harvard, and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.

Buttigieg spoke on stage about his success in Iowa as the first leading gay candidate from a major American political party, noting the historical importance of this moment for LGBTQI youth across the country.

“This validates the idea that we can have a message, the same message, connect in urban and rural and suburban communities, that we can reach out to Democrats, and to independents, and even to some future former Republicans, ready to bring change to this country,” Buttigieg said.

“This validates for a kid somewhere in a community wondering if he belongs or she belongs or they belong in their own family, that if you believe in yourself and your country, there is a lot backing up the belief.”

The Iowa Caucus is when voters in the state of Iowa cast their first official votes for which Democratic candidate they want to take on Trump in the 2020 Presidential election.

Buttigieg said the early results were a “remarkable victory” for his campaign, despite a “coding issue” in the app that was meant to make it easier to finalise the results from the individual caucus contests around the state.

The software, made by Shadow Inc for the Democratic party, failed phenomenally and forced the caucus captains to phone in the results one by one.

However, as not all results have been released yet, there could still be changes to leadership scores as additional precincts report.

“We know this data is accurate and we also have a paper trail,” said the chair of the Iowa Democratic party, Troy Price at a press conference in Des Moines on Tuesday.

“We have been working day and night to make sure these results are accurate.”

Buttigieg publicly came out as gay during a time when the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ military policy was in full-swing and current republican Vice President, Mike Pence presided over the “socially conservative” state of Indiana.

He decided to come out in a short and simple letter to his local newspaper.

“Being gay has had no bearing on my job performance in business, in the military, or in my current role as mayor. It makes me no better or worse at handling a spreadsheet, a rifle, a committee meeting or a hiring decision,” he wrote.

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