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Pete Buttigieg brings a fresh perspective of inclusion and equality to the Democratic Party. As a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar, Buttigieg served his country as a Naval lieutenant in Afghanistan before decisively winning the mayorship of his home town in South Bend, Indiana, an ethnically diverse community in the heart of the Rust Belt. He won the seat at age 29 and is currently serving his second term.
As mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg oversees a budget of more than $300 million and a city staff of more than 1,000 employees. He serves as president of the Indiana Urban Mayors Caucus and serves on the boards of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and the Truman National Security Project. He describes being mayor of his hometown as “the best job in America.” While he appreciates the less ideological aims of local governance, Buttigieg has paid close attention to national issues facing the Democratic Party, particularly since the election of a “thin-skinned authoritarian” to the nation’s highest office.
Buttigieg believes the Democratic Party can rise to meet the challenges of the future by taking the moral high ground on issues concerning equality and fairness, including voting rights. Inclusion is central to his political message, with his belief that the party cannot forsake any of its constituent groups. To accomplish this, Buttigieg believes in boldly proclaiming progressive values in places where Democrats have traditionally struggled. He has lived this belief in his own political life. While running for re-election in this red state, Buttigieg put his values before political expediency when he came out as openly gay. He won with 80 percent of the vote.
In January 2017, after the DNC Chair candidate selections were assumed to be solidified, Buttigieg announced his candidacy. This launch came on the heels of a post-Presidential Election analysis essay he posted to social media that was widely shared and applauded, skyrocketing his political recognition. In his essay, “A letter from flyover country,” Buttigieg wrote, “It is time to organize our politics around the lived experience of real people, whose lives play out not in the political sphere but in the everyday, affected deeply and immediately by how well we honor our values with good policy.”
It is his connection to Midwest communities, especially in Indiana, the most conservative Rust Belt state, that looks to be one of Buttigieg’s greatest assets. The other is his middle-of-the-road status between the Sanders and Obama/Clinton factions of the party. But while Buttigieg could help the Democratic Party where it needs it the most, with white working class voters, it has also been said that Buttigieg may have grander political career ambitions as opposed to a dedicated interest in the job of DNC Chair.
Buttigieg has only received endorsements from John Zody, Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party and Nan Whaley, mayor of Dayton, OH, but this could very well be due to his late candidacy. For years, many in the Democratic Party have named Buttigieg a “rising star.”
Contributing Authors: Peter Schelden and Rati Gupta