Pete Buttigieg is officially running for president. He kicked off his 2020 campaign for the Democratic nomination on Sunday after spending weeks touring early primary states and raising his media profile.
The 37-year-old, who is both openly gay and strongly Christian, made the announcement from an old Studebaker factory in South Bend, Indiana, where he has served as mayor since 2012.
“It is time to walk away from the politics of the past and toward something totally different,” Buttigieg told the crowd. “My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me ‘Mayor Pete.’ I am a proud son of South Bend, Indiana. And I am running for president of the United States.”
Buttigieg’s religious and LGBTQ identity has already helped him to stand out in the expanding field of Democratic contenders. The Midwestern military veteran also speaks seven foreign languages, earned himself a Rhodes Scholarship and knows his way around the guitar, harmonica and piano. (Once, he played with singer-songwriter Ben Folds.) His husband, Chasten Buttigieg, whom he married in 2018, is a very online 29-year-old taking a break from teaching junior high school to follow the campaign trail.
If elected president, “Mayor Pete” would be the first openly gay person and first millennial to take over the Oval Office.
“We live in a moment that compels us each to act,” Buttigieg said Sunday. “The forces changing our country today are tectonic. ... That’s why this time it’s not just about winning an election; it’s about winning an era.”
Last year, Buttigieg was a virtual unknown, still teaching people how to pronounce his last name (it’s BOOT-edge-edge). But recent polling indicates his popularity is on the rise in the key caucus state of Iowa: A Monmouth poll released Thursday put him just behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to officially announce his candidacy, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Buttigieg’s campaign reported that it had raised a whopping $7 million over the first quarter of 2019.
As of Friday, Buttigieg’s campaign website had no “issues” section, focusing instead on the candidate’s personal story. In other forums, he has expressed support for several progressive causes, backing a single-payer health care system, criticizing the Electoral College and the death penalty, and generally appearing to favor a Green New Deal.
Buttigieg has sparked controversy among conservatives for calling out Vice President Mike Pence, a famously devout Christian, for failing to weigh in on President Donald Trump’s personal misconduct. As long as Pence looks the other way on Trump’s behavior while opposing same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights, the former Indiana governor’s moral authority is diminished, Buttigieg has argued. He has also admonished evangelical Christians for the “unbelievable hypocrisy” of their support for the president.
Conservatives have responded by framing Buttigieg’s criticisms as attacks on religious freedom.
The candidate disputes that characterization. Appearing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Friday morning, Buttigieg said, “I don’t have a problem with religion. I’m religious, too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people, especially the LGBTQ community.”
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.