‘Mayor Pete’ joins 2020 Dem race as face of new gen­er­a­tion

The Tribune (SLO) - - News - BY SARA BUR­NETT

Pete But­tigieg, the lit­tle­known In­di­ana mayor who has risen to promi­nence in the early stages of the 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial race, made his of­fi­cial cam­paign en­trance Sun­day by claim­ing the man­tle of a youth­ful gen­er­a­tion ready to reshape the coun­try.

“I rec­og­nize the au­dac­ity of do­ing this as a Mid­west­ern mil­len­nial mayor,” he said to cheers of “Pete, Pete, Pete” from an au­di­ence as­sem­bled in a for­mer Stude­baker auto plant. “More than a lit­tle bold, at age 37, to seek the high­est of­fice in the land.” In the hours af­ter his an­nounce­ment, more than $1 mil­lion in do­na­tions poured in, said Lis Smith, speak­ing for the cam­paign.

The South Bend mayor, a Rhodes scholar and Afghanistan War vet­eran who has been es­sen­tially cam­paign­ing since Jan­uary, has joined a dozen­plus ri­vals vying to take on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“The forces of change in our coun­try to­day are tec­tonic,” he said. “Forces that help to ex­plain what made this cur­rent pres­i­dency even pos­si­ble. That’s why, this time, it’s not just about win­ning an elec­tion – it’s about win­ning an era.”

Fi­nan­cial sup­port from the LGBT com­mu­nity has helped But­tigieg defy ex­pec­ta­tions by raking in more than $ 7 mil­lion in just over two months. The money has come from grass­roots sup­port­ers like Bur­rell and big-dol­lar Hol­ly­wood donors who hope But­tigieg will make his­tory – or at least the sum­mer de­bate stage.

But­tigieg will re­turn this week to Iowa and New Hamp­shire, which hold the na­tion’s first nom­i­nat­ing con­tests, to cam­paign as a full-fledged can­di­date now be­ing taken more se­ri­ously.

Over the past few months, But­tigieg has ap­peared fre­quently on na­tional TV news and talk shows and de­vel­oped a strong so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing with his mes­sage that the coun­try needs “a new gen­er­a­tion of lead­er­ship.”

But­tigieg’s poll num­bers have climbed. Some polls put him be­hind only Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders, who sought the party’s nom­i­na­tion in 2016, and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, who has not yet said he’s run­ning.

But­tigieg’s cam­paign has raised more than $ 7 mil­lion in the first three months of this year, a to­tal eclipsed by San­ders’ lead­ing $18 mil­lion but more than Sens. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Min­nesota and Cory Booker of New Jer­sey.

“Right now, it’s pretty fun,” But­tigieg told The As­so­ci­ated Press last month while vis­it­ing South Carolina , where he was met by larger-thanex­pected crowds.

His chal­lenge is find­ing a way to sus­tain the mo­men­tum over the long term and avoid­ing be­com­ing a “fla­vor-of-the­month” can­di­date. Scru­tiny of his lead­er­ship in South Bend has in­creased, as has his crit­i­cism of Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence , who was In­di­ana’s gov­er­nor when But­tigieg was in his first term as mayor.

But­tigieg would be the first openly gay nom­i­nee of a ma­jor pres­i­den­tial party; he mar­ried his hus­band, Chas­ten, last year. He would be the first mayor to go di­rectly to the White House. And he would be the youngest per­son to be­come pres­i­dent, turn­ing 39 the day be­fore the next in­au­gu­ra­tion, on Jan. 20, 2021. Theodore Roo­sevelt was 42 when he took of­fice, while John F. Kennedy was 43 and Bill Clin­ton 46.

The cam­paign kick­off speech echoed themes that have res­onated with vot­ers dur­ing But­tigieg’s ex­ploratory phase.

He talks of­ten about how po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions shape peo­ple’s lives, in­clud­ing his own – from serv­ing as a lieu­tenant in the Navy Re­serve in 2014, to be­ing able to marry his hus­band and to not hav­ing to worry about how to pay for his fa­ther’s hos­pi­tal bills af­ter his fa­ther’s death this year.

But­tigieg also says the best way for Democrats to de­feat Trump may be to nom­i­nate a mayor ex­pe­ri­enced in help­ing to re­vive a Mid­west­ern city once de­scribed as “dy­ing,” rather than a politi­cian who has spent years “marinating” in Wash­ing­ton.

He has crit­i­cized Trump’s cam­paign slo­gan, “Make Amer­ica Great Again,” say­ing the way to move the coun­try for­ward is not to look back­ward or cling to an old way of life.

“There’s a myth be­ing sold to in­dus­trial and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties: the myth that we can stop the clock and turn it back,” he said in the kick­off speak. “It comes from peo­ple who think the only way to reach com­mu­ni­ties like ours is through re­sent­ment and nos­tal­gia, sell­ing an im­pos­si­ble prom­ise of re­turn­ing to a by­gone era that was never as great as ad­ver­tised to be­gin with.”

DARRON CUM­MINGS AP

South Bend Mayor Pete But­tigieg an­nounces that he will seek the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion dur­ing a rally Sun­day in South Bend, Ind.

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