Prizm News / January 23, 2019 / By Bob Vitale

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg married his husband, Chasten, in 2018. (Photo via Facebook)

The mayor of South Bend, Ind., might be a longshot, but he has impressed Barack Obama and a lot of other influential people.


By Bob Vitale

The openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., has joined a 2020 Democratic field that includes people vying to become the first woman, first Latino, first Asian-American and first Buddhist president of the United States. 

Although he’s considered a longshot—three U.S. presidents have served as mayors, but all were in higher offices between city hall and the White House—Pete Buttigieg has turned heads in political circles. He’s 37, a Harvard graduate, a Rhodes Scholar and a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He came out in a June 2015 essay in his hometown paper. 

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Buttigieg also would be the first member of the Millennial generation to serve as president. 

“There’s a new generation of voices emerging in our country, walking away from the politics of the past and ready to deliver on our priorities,” he said in a campaign video released today.  

Pete for America

I launched a presidential exploratory committee because it is a season for boldness and it is time to focus on the future. Are you ready to walk away from the politics of the past?Join the team at www.peteforamerica.com.

Posted by Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Alluding to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, Buttigieg added: “There’s no such thing as again in the real world. We can’t look for greatness in the past. Right now our country needs a fresh start.” 

Buttigieg joins an already crowded field that’s only going to grow. Sen. Kamala Harris announced her candidacy on Monday. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii announced their candidacies earlier this month. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts launched her campaign in December. 

Several former office holders and business executives also have entered the race, and Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is among 20 other potential candidates still exploring whether to run. 

Buttigieg’s candidacy is historic, and praise of his political abilities and seven years as South Bend mayor has been pretty universal. 

“He seems always to say just the right thing, in just the right tone,” openly gay New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote in a 2016 column titled, “The First Gay President?” 

“Buttigieg can come off like a combination Boy Scout and lovable dork,” writer Bob Moser said last weekend in a Washington Post Magazine piece. 

In that piece, Buttigieg earned praise from former DNC Chair and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who ran for president in 2004. Dean said Buttigieg has a “magnetism about him” and that his age could be an advantage in 2020. 

Former President Barack Obama likes him, too. In 2016, Obama named him among four people (including Kamala Harris) who he considered future leaders of the Democratic Party. Obama’s campaign manager, David Axelrod, once said Buttigieg has “limitless potential.” 

Among the most common adjectives in coverage of his announcement today was longshot. The New York Times, CNN, CBS, The Washington Post and others all used the word. Google Buttigieg and longshot: 10,600 hits so far. 

“It is unclear whether a municipal executive who oversees a city of about 100,000 people can be a viable candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination,” The New York Times wrote. “While several other current or former mayors are considering campaigns, they all hail from iconic American cities like Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York, and have records of managing sprawling bureaucracies or navigating major crises.” 

Pete Buttigieg was born and raised in South Bend. (Photo via Facebook)


FiveThirtyEight raised the issue of whether Americans are ready to elect a gay president. The news site cited a 2015 Gallup poll that found 24 percent of Americans—14 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of Republicans—unwilling to vote for a “generally well-qualified” gay or lesbian candidate for any office.
FiveThirtyEight raised the issue of whether Americans are ready to elect a gay president. The news site cited a 2015 Gallup poll that found 24 percent of Americans—14 percent of Democrats and 38 percent of Republicans—unwilling to vote for a “generally well-qualified” gay or lesbian candidate for any office.

When he came out, Buttigieg wrote: 

“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. It doesn’t change how residents can best judge my effectiveness in serving our city: by the progress of our neighborhoods, our economy, and our city services.” 

He said, however, that being out about his identity might have a big impact in other ways. 

“It’s clear to me that at a moment like this, being more open about it could do some good,” he wrote. “For a local student struggling with her sexuality, it might be helpful for an openly gay mayor to send the message that her community will always have a place for her. And for a conservative resident from a different generation, whose unease with social change is partly rooted in the impression that he doesn’t know anyone gay, perhaps a familiar face can be a reminder that we’re all in this together as a community.”

bobvitale@prizmnews. com
Twitter: @Bob_Vitale

Bob Vitale
Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, he has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Contact: BobVitale@prizmnews.com