Pete Buttigieg

Lisa Keen | Keen News Service
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The openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has announced that he will be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

Pete Buttigieg (pronounced BOO-duh-judge) announced Jan. 23 that he has formed a presidential exploratory committee, an announcement usually followed some weeks or months later with a formal declaration of candidacy. He is now the first openly-gay candidate for the Democratic nomination for president — and a long shot by any measure.

But despite his relative obscurity and the fact that there are more than 140 candidates who have signed up to run for the Democratic nomination, Buttigieg’s name and photo have been included in brief profiles of the top party hopefuls in almost all mainstream media summaries.

Those other hopefuls include a large number of Democratic leaders popular with the LGBT community, including U.S. Sens.

Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

South Bend voters elected Buttigieg mayor in 2011, when he was just 29, with 74 percent of the vote, then re-elected him in 2015 with 80 percent of the vote — just months after he came out publicly as gay.

Buttigieg came out in an opinion piece he wrote for the South Bend Tribune in June 2015, just before the U.S. Supreme Court released its opinion striking down state bans on marriage for same-sex couples.

Buttigieg was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Right out of college, he volunteered with the presidential campaign of Democratic Sen. John Kerry and then did brief stints with a business advisory group led by former Defense Secretary William Cohen and the international management consulting firm of McKinsey & Company.

Buttigieg served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve in Afghanistan in 2014 and, in 2017, and ran for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

Richard Socarides, a long-time Democratic Party activist and openly-gay aide to President Clinton said, “I like Pete Buttigieg very much. He is smart, thoughtful, charismatic and practical. He seems to understand and connect with traditional Democrats and millennials at the same time. He certainly starts off as a long shot, but as we know, anything is possible.

“He very much deserves serious consideration,” Socarides added. “And if you are an LGBT voter, all the more reason to give him a look.”

Fivethirtyeight.com, the political analysis site founded by openly gay data guru Nate Silver, says Buttigieg’s core base are millennials (early twenties to mid-thirties), but “If Buttigieg can become the preferred choice of young voters … it would give him a powerful toe-hold in the race … .”

But Buttigieg’s candidacy is still a long shot, the site notes.

“Beyond standing out in a crowded field and finding footholds with key Democratic constituencies, Buttigieg’s campaign also raises the question of whether Democrats are ready for an openly-gay nominee,” said fivethirtyeight. But win or lose, “he’ll begin to hone a national message and help normalize the idea of an openly-gay president. That alone makes him worth keeping an eye on.”

Buttigieg, 37, married middle school teacher Chasten Glezman last year. In a 2015 essay in the Tribune, Buttigieg said that he was “well into adulthood before I was prepared to acknowledge the simple fact that I am gay. It took years of struggle and growth for me to recognize that it’s just a fact of life, like having brown hair, and part of who I am.”

He said, “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.”

His campaign website is peteforamerica.com.

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