Gay mayor, 37, launches US presidential bid; becomes instant sensation
New Straits Times: Pete Buttigieg, the gay, liberal mayor of a small American city in the conservative bastion of Indiana, officially launched his presidential bid Sunday, joining a crowded field of Democrats vying for their party’s nomination in 2020.
The 37-year-old Rhodes scholar and Afghanistan war veteran is the two-term mayor of his hometown of South Bend – a left-leaning bubble in America’s so-called “Rust Belt” region, where the decline of industries such as steel and automobile manufacturing has hurt local economies.
Voters in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin helped hand Republican US President Donald Trump his victory in the 2016 election.
Buttigieg, who is credited with helping turn South Bend around, has couched himself as a can-do reformer who can speak to voters across the political spectrum. The message has helped catapult him from relative obscurity to becoming one of the leading Democrats in the crowded presidential race.
“My name is Pete Buttigieg. They call me ‘Mayor Pete.’ I’m a proud son of South Bend, Indiana, and I am running for president of the United States!” he told a jubilant crowd of supporters at a former assembly plant turned high-tech hub in South Bend.
“That’s why I am here, to tell a different story than ‘Make America Great Again’” he added, referring to Trump’s campaign slogan. “This time it’s not just about winning an election. It’s about winning an era.”
The official launch – in which Buttigieg touched upon a number of liberal talking points such as racial justice, voting rights and health care reform, as well as his faith and marriage to Chasten Buttigieg – is expected to give his surprisingly strong campaign an additional boost.
Campaign staffers said they have been caught by surprise by the speed with which the mayor has generated nationwide political support, and are still staffing up the campaign. Buttigieg had no speech writer to help him prepare his remarks.
So many people showed up for the launch event that a large crowd was left outside in the rain to watch on a large video screen. Buttigieg braved the elements and thanked the crowd moments before making his official announcement indoors.
“He represents a new generation of Democratic leadership. We love his vision,” said Jenn Watts, 35, while her 3-year-old daughter sat on her shoulders.