WASHINGTON – Mayor Pete has made it official.
“My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me ‘Mayor Pete.’ I am a proud son of South Bend, Ind. And I am running for president of the United States,” South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced at a campaign rally in his hometown Sunday, making him the first openly gay Democrat to seek the office.
If successful, the 37-year-old would be the youngest-ever president.
Buttigieg used an old Studebaker factory that’s been revived as a tech hub as his venue, making it a prominent character throughout his speech.
“I ran for mayor in 2011 knowing that nothing like Studebaker would ever come back – but believing that we would, our city could, if we had the courage to reimagine our future,” Buttigieg said. “And now I can confidently say that South Bend is back.”
In his announcement speech, he took President Trump’s in-your-face style of politics head on.
“And that’s why I’m here today, to tell a different story than ‘Make America Great Again,’” he said.
“Because there is a myth being sold to industrial and rural communities: the myth that we can stop the clock and turn it back,” Buttigieg continued.
“It comes from people who think the only way to reach communities like ours is through resentment and nostalgia. They’re selling an impossible promise of returning to a bygone era that was never as great as advertised to begin with.”
Buttigieg pressed the audience to turn the page with him.
“That’s why, this time, it’s not about winning an election – it’s about winning an era,” he said.
Buttigieg used his biography to make political points.
Speaking about the tour he spent fighting in Afghanistan – while still serving as South Bend’s mayor – he recalled how his comrades-in-arms “didn’t care if I was Democrat or a Republican.”
“They care about whether I had selected the route with the fewest IED threats, not whether my father was documented or undocumented when he immigrated here,” Buttigieg said. “They cared about whether my M-4 was locked and loaded, not whether I was going home to a girlfriend or a boyfriend.”
Buttigieg also made reference on multiple occasions to his spouse, Chasten, imagining telling a younger version of himself that things would be OK, that his gayness would be accepted.
“If I found him and told him what was ahead, would he believe me?” Buttigieg said. “To tell him he’d be all right, more than all right. To tell him that one rainy April day, before he even turns 40 he’ll wake up to headlines about whether he’s rising too quickly as he becomes a top-tier contender for the American presidency.”
“And to tell him that on that day when he announces his campaign for president, he’ll do it with his husband looking on,” Buttigieg said to cheers.
The factory was filled to capacity.
Buttigieg also reported a $7 million haul in the first fundraising quarter of 2019, bigger than candidates who have been in the national spotlight longer, like Sens. Cory Booker(D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
He’s also finished in third place in some polls from the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Prior to Buttigieg’s arrival he had assembled a line-up of other mayors to be his warm-up act.
Christopher Cabaldon, the openly gay mayor of West Sacramento, Calif., said he was relieved that no “gay panic” was sweeping the nation, saying that instead Americans are falling in love with Chasten Buttigieg.
“Maybe the people of our country are even surprising themselves as they are saying across the land: Pete Buttigieg is the Maltese-American, left-handed Episcopalian, gay millennial war veteran that America didn’t know we needed,” Cabaldon said.
Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, Texas, who referred to the younger Buttigieg as his “mentor” asked the crowd, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a president who was really smart?”
Adler also complimented Buttigieg’s proficiency in multiple languages – he speaks eight – “including a beautiful command of English,” Adler said, mocking the current president’s frequent gaffes and misspelled tweets.
Buttigieg never used Trump’s name during the speech, letting colorful descriptions do the job instead.
“When something is grotesque it’s hard to look away,” he said. “The horror show in Washington it mesmerizing. It’s all consuming. But starting today, we are going to change the channel.”