SB mayor eyes ‘underdog’ run for White House

January 24, 2019

SOUTH BEND – Pete Buttigieg knows the odds are not in his favor. A Democrat in a Republican state, the South Bend mayor would also be the first openly LGBTQ elected official to run for President of the United States.

But he thinks it’s time.

“The show in Washington right now is exhausting: the corruption, the fighting, the lying, the sense of constant crisis … it has to end,” Buttigieg said Wednesday in a video announcing that he’s exploring the possibility of a run for the Democratic nomination.

“But we can’t just revert to where we were a few years ago, trying to tinker with a broken system. This is a season for boldness, and we need to focus on the future,” he said.

Buttigieg has “officially launched” an exploratory committee, and is touting his accomplishments in South Bend

“This is my eighth and final year as mayor of South Bend. Over the last decade, our community has seen extraordinary changes ... and stands as living proof that the industrial Midwest can create a better future by leaving aside nostalgia and resentment, solving problems to help bring everyone a better everyday life,” he said.

“Time and again, South Bend has beaten the odds and the expectations. But now I am worried about our country – especially for members of my generation. What will America look like in 2054, when I reach the age of the current president? How will we look back on 2020?”

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, a national organization aimed at electing LGBTQ people, cheered the decision, saying in a statement it “comes in the wake of an unprecedented ‘Rainbow Wave’ of openly LGBTQ candidates who ran this past election cycle at every level of government, many of whom broke down long-standing political barriers on Election Night.”

Buttigieg said he represents more than just the LGBTQ community.

He said his generation has “experienced school shootings beginning when I was in high school ... fought in the post 9/11 wars – the first generation to have to deal with the reality of climate change, and the first generation not to be better off than our parents materially – if nothing changes.

“Only a forward focus – untethered from the politics of the past and anchored by our shared values – can change our national politics and our nation’s future.”

Elected mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest city at age 29, Buttigieg, who turned 37 this week, was called “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of” by the Washington Post.

He served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 2009-17, and took a leave of absence to serve in Afghanistan during a seven-month deployment in 2014, earning a Joint Service Commendation Medal for counterterrorism work.

During his first term, he introduced the 1000 Homes in 1000 Days initiative, which demolished or repaired abandoned homes throughout South Bend. During his second term he constructed “Smart Streets” as part of downtown improvement plan, and in 2017 announced the largest investment to parks and trails in city history.

A Rhodes Scholar, Buttigieg studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford and holds a bachelor’s degree in History and Literature from Harvard. Born in South Bend, he attended St. Joseph High School, and is past president of the Indiana Urban Mayors Caucus and Northern Indiana Mayors Roundtable. He currently serves on the boards of the Truman National Security Project and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

An active musician, Buttigieg plays piano and guitar, and has performed with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.

“We value freedom, knowing it means more than cutting regulation,” he said. “You’re not free if you can’t sue a credit card company that gets caught ripping you off, or walk down the street without being profiled on the basis of your skin color, or marry the person you love.

“We value security, knowing it means more than what goes on at the border: it requires real strategies for 21st-century threats like cybersecurity, election security and climate security.

“And we value our democracy, the foundation of our national life, that is under attack from hostile foreign powers and from cynical political tactics. That’s why our democracy must be defended and broadened, with real and bold reforms.”

He is well aware of his longshot status should he choose to run for president.

“I am aware of the odds we would face if we proceed to mount a national campaign,” he said. “I know we are the underdogs. But we’ve been the underdogs before.

“When I arrived in office at the beginning of this decade, the national press said that our city was dying. People on the outside didn’t believe our city had a future. But we propelled our city’s comeback by taking our eyes off the rearview mirror, being honest about change, and insisting on a better future.

“And I believe that at a moment like this, underdog campaigns will go further than the establishment would normally allow, when it comes to bold ideas that can truly meet the threats and opportunities coming our way.”

Annise Parker, president of LGBTQ Victory Fund, called it a historic moment.

“An openly LGBTQ elected official forming a presidential exploratory committee is a historic and powerful moment for the LGBTQ community and the entire country. ... we are finally in a place where an openly LGBTQ presidential candidate can be a serious contender.

“For the teenager in small-town America who is just coming to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity, having an openly LGBTQ person running for the most important political office in the world will demonstrate there is no limit to what they can achieve – and that is transformative.”

And she said anything can happen in the current political climate.

“In such a wide-open presidential race, Mayor Buttigieg would be a welcome contribution to the marketplace of ideas that will determine where our nation is headed in 2020 and beyond.”

Parker said Buttigieg is “well-positioned for this political moment. He represents a new generation of presidential contenders and brings a sense of optimism and American solidarity that is entirely absent from the current national dialogue.”

To his supporters, Buttigieg said, “You have been there for me in the past, as I sought to bring needed change to our hometown and to our party. Now I ask you to join me in exploring what new leadership could mean for the country we love. There’s a new generation of voices emerging, walking away from the politics of the past and ready to deliver on our priorities.”

To view the announcement video, visit the Pete for America page on Facebook.

—From staff reports

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