Proud, gay mayor Pete Buttigieg aims to defeat Trump in 2020

Sun. April 14, 2019 4:58 PM by Brian Troutman

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"It is time to walk away from the politics of the past and toward something that is totally different."

South Bend, IN - A small-city mayor has his eyes set on the White House. "My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me 'Mayor Pete'. I'm the proud son of South Bend, Indiana, and I am running for President of the United States," declared the latest entrant to the 2020 contest while standing under a banner that simply read "Pete 2020". As the first viable openly LGBT candidate for president, he joined 18 other Democrats to challenge Donald Trump for the leadership of the free world.

3,000 people at the Sunday afternoon announcement rally packed into Studebaker Building 84, a recently-renovated mixed-use building, converted from the former home of the failed auto-manufacturer Studebaker, which now houses technology companies including South Bend Code School and an Amazon Web Services company. Meanwhile, over a thousand people stood outside in wet, near-freezing conditions to show their support.

Mayors from cities as varied as West Sacramento, California to Austin, Texas endorsed the presidential hopeful. "I'm in a unique position to be able to address the question that so much of America is asking - 'Is this guy really different? Is he really unique? Is he special? Is he truly that much smarter than everybody else?' And the answer to those questions is 'yes,'" Austin Mayor Steve Adler told GoPride. "I think the arc of history [regarding LGBT progress] is very clear, and I think that these are the moments and the times when we need to stand up. Yes, I think there will be resistance. So what? You have to do what is right."

Buttigieg's announcement came as no surprise to political observers. His campaign raised over seven million dollars in the first quarter of 2019, and he has qualified to be featured in the presidential debates. After launching his exploratory committee in January, Buttigieg toured early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, speaking to political audiences. He also became a popular guest on TV with appearances on several national news programs, including a CNN town hall at Austin's famed South by Southwest.

Buttigieg recently drew national attention with his broadsides against Vice President and fellow Hoosier Mike Pence. "I'm not critical of his faith; I'm critical of bad policies," Buttigieg recently explained on "Ellen." "I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people and especially in the LGBTQ community. So many people, even today, feel like they don't belong."

Buttigieg's profile does not match that of the typical presidential candidate, which traditionally has included senators, governors, and other national political figures. The City of South Bend - two hours outside Chicago - boasts only a modest population of a little over 102,000 people. The midwestern mayor recently surged toward the top of the polls, ranking third in Iowa behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in a Monmouth University poll released Thursday. 

While President Trump was never mentioned by name, Buttigieg's message took aim at the 74-year-old incumbent. "When something is grotesque, it's hard to look away, and the horror show in Washington is mesmerizing. It's all-consuming, but starting today, we're going to change the channel," he said. "There is no such thing in honest politics that includes the word 'again'." 

If elected, Buttigieg, 37, would also be the youngest President to ever hold the office. "I come from the generation that grew up with school shootings as the norm; the generation that produced the bulk of the troops in the post 9/11 conflicts; the generation that is going to be on the business end of climate change," he told the energetic crowd. "It is time to walk away from the politics of the past and toward something that is totally different." 

"Mayor Pete" was first elected to lead South Bend in 2011 at the young age of 29 and continued to serve for eight years. While touring early primary States, Buttigieg highlighted his work turning around his "dying" hometown by growing jobs and investing in advanced industries - a message clearly aimed at crucial Rust Belt voters.

"I lived in Chicago after graduating from college, but every time I came back to town there was something new and exciting happening with the city," South Bend native and Buttigieg supporter Ashley Meuleman told GoPride. "I absolutely love what Mayor Pete has done with the region, the people, the whole culture of the area."

Buttigieg served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve during his time in office. He received the Joint Service Commendation Medal for his counterterrorism work while deployed to Afghanistan. "They cared whether my M-4 was loaded, not whether I came home to a girlfriend or boyfriend," he recalled from his time serving.

He met his husband Chasten on the dating app Hinge back in 2015, and the two were wed in September 2018. "Our marriage exists by the grace of a single vote on the U.S. Supreme Court," he stated. "Nine men and women sat down in a room and took a vote and they brought me the most important freedom in my life." Pete and Chasten Buttigieg care for their two rescue dogs, Truman and Buddy, and live in the same neighborhood where the young mayor grew up.

Buttigieg benefits from a more accepting electorate than there was in years past. George W. Bush's 2004 campaign successfully weaponized LGBT equality as a wedge issue and helped place gay marriage bans on several swing-state ballots to turn out anti-gay voters who were likely to support the Republican president. Fred Karger, the first openly gay presidential candidate, struggled so badly in his 2012 bid for the White House as a Republican he only appeared on the ballot in a few States. 

According to a recent NBC/WSJ poll, 68 percent of Americans said they would be okay with a gay or lesbian presidential candidate, a sea change from 2006 when that number was just 43 percent.

Buttigieg is expected to be in Chicago in May for a private fundraiser at a Lakeview home.