The 35-year-old is vying in a field of eight contenders, led by Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, for the leadership spot. Monday’s endorsements come before the candidates participate in a debate hosted by CNN on Wednesday night and the 447 members of the DNC vote Saturday in Atlanta. Buttigieg has made the case that, unlike Bernie Sanders-backed Ellison and Hillary Clinton ally Perez, he would represent a break from the party’s 2016 primary divides — and give the party a major voice from outside Washington. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the brother of former Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, hit both of those themes in a statement first obtained by CNN, calling Buttigieg part of “a new generation of leadership.”
BY: Maureen Groppe
Pete Buttigieg was a senior in high school when his team made the 2000 finals of a national student competition to make a monetary policy recommendation to the Federal Reserve.
The St. Joseph’s High School students didn’t win with their proposal to increase the federal funds rate by 25 basis points. But Buttigieg’s performance was so impressive that the Federal Reserve official who created the contest pulled his teacher aside.
“Who was that?” he asked macroeconomics teacher Julie Chismar.
Others have been asking the same thing recently after Buttigieg — now 35 and the mayor of South Bend — joined the crowded race to head the Democratic National Committee.
The next question they ask is: How do you pronounce his name?
“Luckily elections are usually multiple-choice,” he says of his difficult last name.
Buttigieg was a late entrant last month in the race to be decided Feb. 25. The early frontrunners were former Labor Secretary Tom Perez — a favorite of the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton camps — and Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who has the backing of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
But he’s gotten a lot of buzz as someone who could come right through the middle of that establishment vs. insurgent divide in the party.
“The DNC is looking for a real change,” said former DNC chair Howard Dean, who has not endorsed a candidate. “I was speaking at a Yale Young Democrats meeting (the other) night and that’s all they wanted to talk about — Pete.”
What people like most about Buttigieg is he defies stereotypes, said Joe Andrew, who is from Indiana and is one of four former DNC chairs who have endorsed the South Bend mayor. Buttigieg wouldn’t just be the youngest, and first openly gay DNC chair. He’s also a Rhodes Scholar and an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve who worked for the high-powered consulting firm McKinsey before becoming mayor of a Rust Belt city.
“For those people who want him just to be a Rust Belt mayor so he can talk to people, he’s so much more than that,” Andrew said. “People who want to paint him as an Ivy Leaguer, they (then) think `This guy can really talk to people.’ People who want to paint him as a gay activist? God no! He’s from South Bend, Ind.”
He comes across, Andrew said, as authentic.
“Here’s a very 2017 sentence: I started Thanksgiving morning in a deer blind with my boyfriend’s father,” Buttigieg said at one of the regional forums preceding the election.
The candidates have been selling similar platforms at the forums. All, for example, are emphasizing the need to build the Democrats’ bench, get back to the grassroots, fight voter suppression and pay attention to redistricting.
Buttigieg is arguing that not only does he not represent either side of the Clinton/Sanders division, but he is best positioned to deliver what all are promising.
“If we’re all saying we’ve got to fight in red and purple states, put in somebody from Indiana. If we’re saying we’ve got to pay attention from the top of the ticket on down, put in a mayor — someone whose bread and butter is local office,” Buttigieg said at one of the regional forums. “And if we’re all saying that the solutions for our party are not going to come from Washington, put in somebody that does not get up in the morning and go to work in Washington every day.”
Chismar heard about Buttigieg long before she had him in class.
“I remember one of the English teachers told him, `You’re going to have to change that name if you’re going to run for president,’” said Chismar, who has volunteered for all of Buttigieg’s campaigns. “If you’ve heard him speak, he captures your attention.”
Although Buttigieg was senior class president, the career he initially envisioned in high school wasn’t politics but an airline pilot. He loved technology and loved to travel, including to his father’s native Malta, where Buttigieg is a common last name. Being a pilot seemed like “good, honest work.”
Buttigieg’s parents — both professors at the University of Notre Dame — weren’t politically connected, but they were politically conscious. Dinner table talk covered world events. Between those conversations and the social consciousness he developed through the Catholic social teachings at St. Joseph’s and from being involved with Amnesty International, Buttigieg decided “I had to go out and make myself useful.”
But first, he penned the winning entry for the 2000 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for high school students. His chosen hero? Bernie Sanders.
Buttigieg said he saw Sanders as someone who was passionate about his beliefs without concern for political consequences, yet still able to work with others.
“I thought it was an interesting lesson that often being strong in your convictions makes you actually better able to work with people on the other side,” Buttigieg said, “because even if your values are different, they know that you’re driven by values, and you have that in common.”
Buttigieg, however, endorsed Clinton, not Sanders, in the 2016 presidential race.
“I still think it was really important and a positive thing when he got in,” Buttigieg says of Sanders. “I just felt she was the person I most wanted to be president.”
At Harvard, Buttigieg studied history and literature while being involved in the Harvard Institute of Politics and working on political campaigns.
When he drove former Rep. Jill Long Thompson to events for her 2002 campaign, Buttigieg impressed her as someone both very bright and gifted, but also down to earth.
“I found that people of all ages just took to him,” Long Thompson said. “He just always has stood out.”
After studying politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar, Buttigieg worked for McKinsey, the management strategy consulting firm. He loved the work and the travel, he said, but ultimately needed more of a sense of purpose.
Becoming a candidate
In 2010 he ran for state treasurer, a down-ballot race which would have been an uphill battle for any unknown Indiana Democrat even before a backlash to President Barack Obama and the rise of the tea party made it a banner GOP year.
He got clobbered: 35.7 percent to Republican Richard Mourdock’s 62.5 percent.
“That was how I really learned politics,” Buttigieg said.
When he told Chismar that he planned to run for mayor in 2011, her mind flashed to the recent news that a discount clothing chain was closing its South Bend distribution center, letting go about 700 workers. The city made Newsweek’s list of top 10 dying cities that year.
“I said,`Oh my gosh, Peter!’” she remembers. “He said, `Well, you know me. I like a challenge.’”
The contest in the Democratic city would be decided in the primary and, as in the DNC race, Buttigieg was not the favorite.
“Certainly he caught local attention very quickly and rose to the top in a way I don’t think most political observers anticipated when people first heard — and learned to pronounce — his last name,” said Elizabeth Bennion, a political science professor at Indiana University-South Bend.
He won the backing of the local chamber of commerce, the first time the business group endorsed a mayoral candidate.
“You will see people in South Bend from both sides of the aisle who have supported me, not because I’ve tried to shoot the middle ideologically, but because we’ve delivered, got things done,” he said.
Buttigieg dominated the primary and, at 29, became the youngest mayor of a city with more than 100,000 residents.
He’d argued during the campaign that the high-paying manufacturing jobs that used to be available before the Studebaker car company closed its doors were not coming back, but there was a better way to prosper. The city still makes things, he said. But now workers are making sophisticated things, and there are industries that didn’t exist when the last Studebaker rolled off the line, such as data analytic centers.
He promised to repair or demolish 1,000 vacant properties in 1,000 days. He’s tried to create a more vibrant downtown through streetscape improvements and changing driving patterns. And he’s tried to boost civic pride through public art, a contest to redesign the city flag and performing with the South Bend Symphony.
(To get ready for his piano solo in George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” the former student piano player took lessons with a world-class pianist and practiced every day for six months. Afraid he would miss a day because of a trip to Florida to go to a football game, Buttigieg rolled his suitcase up to the piano bar in O’Hare International Airport at 5:30 a.m. and sat down to play.)
Bennion said Buttigieg became an important leader in a symbolic way.
“Here is someone who is young and smart and has a world of opportunity available to him, and he chose to come home and work to make his hometown the best it could be,” she said. “That attracted some other young professionals, some of whom he personally recruited here, and others who came as other young professionals and social entrepreneurs and developers have decided to stake a claim here and work on improving the city.”
In 2014, The Washington Post called Buttigieg “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of.”
He was challenged for re-election, though, in the 2015 Democratic primary by Henry Davis Jr., an African-American on the common council who said some residents felt they were being marginalized or left behind by the changes Buttigieg was bringing to the city.
In endorsing Buttigeig for a second term, the South Bend Tribune praised the renewed energy he’d brought to the city, but said it remained to be seen whether knocking down houses and changing traffic patterns would spur development. And, the paper said, Buttigieg needed to boost his standing with the city’s African-Americans, in part because of a controversy over secretly recorded tapes of police officers which occurred before Buttigieg took office but led to some criticism over how he handled the situation. The tapes allegedly recorded officers making racist comments and talking about breaking the law.
Bennion said Buttigieg has tried to address those concerns, but there hasn’t been a lot of criticism because “people can see visible improvements.”
Buttigieg won the primary with 78 percent. He defeated his GOP challenger with 80 percent of the vote, months after writing a public essay in the local paper announcing he’s gay, called: “Why Coming out Matters.”
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni opined last year that Buttigieg could become the first gay president.
After last year’s election, Obama — who has not endorsed a candidate for DNC chair — included Buttigieg in a list of gifted Democratic politicians new to the scene.
But Pete Seat, spokesman for the Indiana Republican Party, said Buttigieg is running to head the DNC because he knows he can’t move up to a higher office in a red state.
“This is an extremely ambitious individual who realized that his political trajectory had no path forward in Indiana and he needed to find an exit plan,” Seat said. “If the goal is for Democrats to lose more important seats, I guess he would be the best pick. If the goal is to win, they should pick a winner, someone who has actually won outside of a blue city.”
Among the up to 10 candidates seeking to lead the DNC, Perez has the most high-profile backer — former Vice President Joe Biden — and he and Ellison have the most endorsements.
But four past DNC chairs have endorsed Buttigieg, the most of any candidate.
Even though Andrew was one of the endorsers, neither he nor Dean think the race will turn on endorsements.
The number of DNC members voting is small enough — 447 — that the candidates can talk to most of them individually, in addition to speaking at the four regional forums which lead up to the vote.
“It’s going to be much more of a gut thing about personality,” Andrew said.
Despite Buttigieg’s late start, he’s applying the same energy and commitment to reaching out to every DNC member as he did to visiting nearly all of Indiana’s 92 counties for his uphill race for state treasurer, and to learning the “Rhapsody in Blue” piano solo for his South Bend Symphony appearance.
“We’re chewing through the list,” Buttigieg said of his goal of reaching every DNC member. “I’ll just keep calling until I do.”
Name: Pete Buttigieg
Born: South Bend.
Home: South Bend.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Harvard, 2004; honors degree from Oxford University, 2007, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.
Professional experience: Conference director for The Cohen Group, 2004-05; consultant at McKinsey and Co., 2007-10.
Military experience: Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve, 2009-present, including 2014 tour in Afghanistan.
Political experience: Policy and research specialist for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign; adviser to Jill Long Thompson’s 2008 gubernatorial campaign; 2010 Democratic nominee for state treasurer; mayor of South Bend, 2012- present.
BY: Jake Horowitz
Pete Buttigieg has a vision for how Democrats can win back white working class voters living in the Rust Belt.
“Step one is to show up,” Buttigieg told Mic in an interview. “There was a sense that Donald Trump was talking to rural America [during the 2016 presidential election]. Even though it was all bullshit, you get credit for showing up and talking. Even in the counties we’re never going to win, we’ve got to show up.”
The 35-year-old South Bend, Indiana, mayor is running to become the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, the organizing body of the Democratic Party. The race, seen by many political observers as a bellwether for the future of the party, has turned into a sort of proxy war between the base’s Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton camps.
Buttigieg rejects that dichotomy altogether, presenting himself as someone who can transcend traditional Democratic divisions and bring new voters into the fold.
“We have to make sure we’re putting forward a message that inspires our traditional base and biggest donors, as well as people who have never thought about [getting involved in politics] before,” he said.
Buttigieg is very much the underdog in a crowded field that includes a whopping 11 candidates. While he has received the endorsements of several prominent Democrats, including 2016 presidential candidate and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Buttigieg entered the DNC race late and is far from a household name.
Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who is backed by Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden and former Attorney General Eric Holder, are rumored to be the leading contenders for the post. There are 447 DNC members who will to cast their vote in Atlanta later this month.
Buttigieg does have one quality, however, which he feels makes him a unique asset to the Democratic Party: He’s a millennial who knows how to speak to young people. Indeed, , making this a core demographic for Democrats.
“Authenticity is important,” Buttigieg told Mic. “The younger you are, the more you have a sophisticated detector for when you’re being pandered to. We also need to not just talk to millennials about ‘young people’ stuff. Millennials care about student debt, but they also care about [issues like] health care and the war in Afghanistan.”
Even former President Barack Obama told the New Yorker after the election that Buttigieg is one of several lesser-known, but up-and-coming Democratic politicians to watch, along with California Senator Kamala Harris, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet and Virginia Senator and former vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine.
Ellison has strong youth support, in part as a result of the endorsement of Sanders, who won more votes among those under age 30 in the 2016 primaries than Clinton and Trump combined. However, Buttigieg feels he is uniquely equipped to bring new young voters into the fold, and particularly those who didn’t vote in 2016 and who live outside of traditional Democratic strongholds like New York City and San Francisco.
“Rural millennials are smart people, but they are in different conversations,” Buttigieg said. “It’s one thing to say we’re here to stand up for LGBTQ rights. It’s another to say everyone ought to be able to choose who they want to marry. It’s not about dumbing down our rhetoric. It’s about anchoring it in people’s everyday lives. We’ve got to get back to that way of explaining things.”
On paper, Buttigieg is the kind of candidate who can accomplish exactly that. He attended Harvard and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, where he served in the Navy Reserve. In 2011, he became the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with over 100,000 residents when he was elected in his hometown of South Bend. The Washington Post once called him “the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of.”
He’s also gay. Buttigieg came out in a June 2015 op-ed for the South Bend Tribune during his mayoral re-election campaign. He went on to win a second term by a landslide, making him the the first openly gay executive in Indiana, a state which voted solidly red in 2016.
Buttigieg feels this diverse background gives him exactly the kind of experience Democrats need in order to rebuild after a bruising election defeat which has left their party searching for answers.
“I’m the only candidate positioned to deliver on the things we say we want to do,” Buttigieg said. “If we’re all saying we’ve got to spend more time in red and purple states, I’m from a purple state. If we want to transcend factional struggle, put in someone who’s not backed by any particular faction. If we want to say we understand grassroots organizing, put in the one candidate who was actually at the Women’s March.”
Talk to Buttigieg, and you get the overwhelming sense he’s determined to help progressives resist the Trump administration and Republicans for decades to come, no matter what his fate later this month.
“We can’t treat the presidency like it’s the only race that matters,” Buttigieg said. “The other side has been very clever about building majorities in state houses, school boards, and they’ve been at it for decades. It’s time for Democrats to think about a 50-year strategy — how we’re going to build a coalition that will be more important than any individual election cycle.“
BY: Thomas Fitzgerald
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who was himself once national Democratic chairman, on Thursday endorsed South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg in the current competitive campaign for the job.
Buttigieg, 35, is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a favorite of those who believe the Democratic National Committee needs to turn to a new generation of leaders after the 2016 electoral losses and a decade-long weakening in the party’s standing in state capitals.
Rendell, in a statement, said that Buttigieg can heal the divisions within the party illuminated by the tough primary fight between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton last year.
“We need someone who understands the needs and values of middle class Americans and what that means in different parts of the country,” Rendell said. “Someone who will be an innovative thinker not wedded to solutions proffered only inside the Beltway. We also need someone who can bring the party together and lead us to victory at all levels.”
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland also backed Buttigieg Thursday.
The front-runners in the race are former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who was on Clinton’s short list of potential running mates, and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, endorsed by Sanders and the AFL-CIO. Neither has secured a majority of votes from the 447 DNC members who will elect the new chair Feb. 25 in Atlanta.
Rendell, who was DNC chairman during the 2000 election after two terms as mayor of Philadelphia, praised both men, but said Buttigieg offers “new energy” and a vision for winning back the working-class voters who formed the backbone of President Trump’s electoral coalition.
In his endorsement, Rendell diverged from Pennsylvania Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen, who backs Perez. Unlike the former governor, Groen has a vote as a current member of the DNC, though Rendell is expected to lobby his contacts on the committee for Buttigieg.
“The status quo has failed us, and the Washington party structure has let outreach to once reliable Democratic communities like Youngstown take a back seat to fundraisers in New York and California,” Strickland said in a statement.
BY: Alex Seitz–Wald
Two former chairmen of the Democratic National Committee have endorsed South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg for that job, expressing concern about intra-party factionalism if either of the race’s two frontrunners win next week’s chairmanship election.
David Wilhelm, Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign manager, who was then chosen to lead the DNC, and Joe Andrew, who led the party in the late 1990s, both came out for the underdog Buttigieg in statements to NBC News Wednesday.
“Let’s try to avoid waging a battle through proxies that reopens wounds from past campaigns,” said Wilhelm.
With Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders supporting Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and Democrats close to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton backing former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Buttigieg and other second-tier candidates in the race have argued that electing either would leave a large segment of the party feeling scorned and left out.
“We need someone who can unify us, who can focus on the grassroots, whose experience is outside Washington, and who represents the next generation of party leadership that will lead us to victories at the national and local level. That person is Mayor Pete Buttigieg and I am proud to lend my name to his growing list of supporters,” Wilhelm added.
Andrew, an Indiana native like Buttigieg, chaired the party along with former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell when the DNC used a different model that split the chairmanship between two people. The global chairman of the massive law firm Dentons, also expressed concern about Clinton-Sanders tension.
“The DNC Chair needs to be the leader of all of the party, not one faction or another. Some candidates have purposefully aligned themselves with one faction, hoping that it would assist them to break out of the pack of candidates. That approach may have gotten them more press, but it does the party a disservice. The main effect has been to encourage factionalism,” Andrew said.
Three former DNC chairs have so far made their preferences known: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe endorsed Perez, former South Carolina Gov. Don Fowler endorsed fellow South Carolinian Jamie Harrison, and former Massachusetts State Treasurer Steve Grossman endorsed Buttigieg.
“It’s telling that Pete is the only candidate is this race who has the support of two people who have actually run the party,” said Andrew.
While the state of the race is opaque, given its peculiar process, the 35-year-old Buttigieg is said to have a tiny faction of the support promised to Ellison or Perez. That’s lead critics to dismiss his bid for the chairmanship merely an effort to raise his national profile ahead of some other campaign down the road.
The 447 members of the DNC will cast a ballot next Saturday in Atlanta, and while Perez and Ellison have claimed support of between 100 and 200 members each, Democrats peg Buttigieg’s support in the single or low double digits.
But because the race will likely be decided over multiple rounds of balloting, it’s conceivable — though still unlikely — that there could be a surprises if a large number of members pick one of the lesser-known candidates as their consensus second choice.
“I think there is a third path — I just hope it can be me,” Harrison, the popular South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman, whose star has also risen during this campaign, told NBC News.
Howard Dean, who won the party’s last open chairmanship election in 2005 and who considered running again this year, told NBC News he thinks Buttigieg or Harrison have the best shot at winning.
It’s an unconventional prediction, he acknowledged. But he said he wants to see younger people take leadership roles in the party.
“My generation is done in politics here. We need to get out of the way,” he said.
BY: Greg Hinz
The battle for the soul of the Democratic Party in the age of Donald Trump made a road stop in Chicago last evening, and so far it looks like there’s no clear winner.
The battle—my shorthand for the upcoming election of a new chair of the Democratic National Committee—arrived in the form of a visit by one of the candidates for that job: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
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Buttigieg is believed to be trailing the two front-runners: former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who’s seen as sort of the establishment candidate, and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, viewed as the champion of the party’s Bernie Sanders wing.
Buttigieg, 35, a Red State mayor and Afghanistan veteran, is viewed as somewhere in between those two and is trying to pitch himself as everyone’s second choice in the event that neither wins when the committee’s 447 members vote later this month. And if last night’s even is an indication, he’s making some progress.
In attendance at the North Side event were about 60 people including former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, ace fundraiser Bettylu Saltzman, former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer and the hosts of the event—Susan and Michael Axelrod, the wife and son of top Obama strategist David Axelrod.
The latter tells me he’s neutral; he has a gig as a commentator for CNN. The Illinoisans on the DNC who have votes and have committed themselves, Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and state Sen. Iris Martinez of Chicago, both are for Perez.
But Cullerton, I’m told, effectively endorsed Buttigieg. (Cullerton’s office had no immediate comment on that.) And Daley, who helped organize the event, certainly is in the mayor’s corner.
“He’s young, comes from a Red State, and is good on TV,” Daley tells me. “He’s everybody’s second choice.”
He said he particularly likes Buttigieg’s vow to get the party back to 50-state grass-roots organizing, as occurred during the tenure of former Chairman Howard Dean.
Among uncommitted Illinois voters are former state Comptroller Dan Hynes and former U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello.
We’ll see how this plays out when the committee meets the weekend of Feb. 24-26. But given the party’s lack of power positions in Washington, the new chairman will have an outsize role.
BY: Lynn Sweet
In the heated race to become the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, Bill Daley is endorsing South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg, who hits Chicago on Sunday to rally support for this bid.The two leading contenders for the top party post are former Labor Sec. Tom Perez and the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison D-Minn.Buttigieg is emerging as the leading alternative to the better known Perez and Ellison, whose battle is seen as a proxy war between the Obama/Clinton and Sanders/Warren wings of the Democratic party.Buttigieg, 35, is seen as a rising star in the party, which, during the Obama presidency, has seen losses in the number of Democrats holding Congressional, state and local offices.Add to that the surprise defeat of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. Buttigieg is an officer in U.S. Navy Reserve, who took a leave of absence from his mayor’s job to serve in Afghanistan in 2014.And he is also openly gay. And he is an elected official in the home red state of Vice President Mike Pence.Ellison has the backing of Sen. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill.
Daley, a former Obama chief of staff and a Commerce Secretary under Bill Clinton in endorsing Buttigieg told me he is a “nice fresh start for the party.”
Daley likes Perez, who has picked up the backing of former Vice President Joe Biden. But Perez or Ellison at the helm means “a continuation of the Obama/Clinton versus the Sanders/Warren” feuds.
“Let’s get beyond this and focus on all these places other than Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami that seem to have a problem with Democrats,” Daley said.
Buttigieg will be introduced around on Sunday at two receptions, one hosted by Susan Axelrod, the wife of Obama former strategist, CNN commentator and University of Chicago Institute of Politics founder David Axelrod, and their son Michael.
Axelrod told me because of all his connections, and his friendships with several people running for DNC chair, “I tend not to put my name on things. But when Susan and Michael wanted to do something, I surely didn’t object.”
The next DNC chair will be elected by the 447 voting members of the party. That’s ten people in Illinois.
In Illinois, the voters are DNC members state House Speaker Mike Madigan D-Chicago, the state Democratic party chairman; former Rep. Jerry Costello D-Ill.; Ald. Carrie Austin (34th); state Senate President John Cullerton D-Chicago; Rep. Danny Davis D-Ill.; former Comptroller Dan Hynes; state Sen. Iris Martinez; Downstate activist Jayne Mazzotti; Cook County Record of Deeds Karen Yarbrough and former state Sen. Carol Ronen D-Chicago.
Ronen is backing Perez. “I think Tom Perez is what the Democratic Party needs right now,” she told me. “…The Demoratic Party does best when we speak forcefully about our values, and he will,” Ronen said.
Madigan is officially neutral. A guess is that he is Perez friendly; daughter Attorney General Lisa Madigan worked on programs with Perez when he was at the Justice Department. Martinez is for Perez. Davis is not committed. Yarbrough is for Ellison.
Ellison came through Chicago last month. Among other elected officials backing him: Rep. Jan Schakowsky D-Ill.; Cook County Clerk David Orr and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
BY: Mallory Shelbourne
A candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Saturday blasted President Trump, calling him “a draft–dodging chickenhawk president.”
“I’ll be damned if we’re going to have a draft–dodging chickenhawk president of the United States – who thinks he’s too smart to read his own intelligence briefings – ordering the people I served with back into another conflict because he can’t be bothered to do his job properly,” South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said at a DNC forum in Baltimore.
Buttigieg, who was deployed to Afghanistan while serving in the Navy Reserves, said during a panel with other DNC candidates that Democrats need to “tap into the moral outrage” across the country, alluding to protests over a series of executive actions Trump has taken in the first weeks of his presidency. Buttigieg criticized Trump for his order on refugees.
The New York Times reported last year that Trump received five deferments from the military draft during the Vietnam War, including four educational deferments and one medical deferment.
Other Democratic candidates criticized Trump on Saturday, with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a top contender for DNC chair, calling the president “misogynistic.”
Ellison also condemned recent immigration raids after reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials detained several hundred people his week.
“We’ve got to be in solidarity, we’ve got to be with them. We’ve got to be on the line, carrying the sign,” Ellison said.
The DNC’s interim chairwoman, Donna Brazile, similarly spoke out against the raids on Saturday.
“For the last few days, in communities across our country, some of our neighbors heard a knock at their door. Peaceful, hard-working people were asked for their papers. Some were torn from their homes, leaving mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters behind,” Brazile said in a statement.
“This is not happening in some faraway dictatorship you have trouble finding on a map. This is happening here, in our America. And we have to keep working, keep fighting, and keep speaking out until it stops.”
A report on Friday said undocumented immigrants were arrested this week in Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. An ICE official said while the raids were an “enforcement surge,” they were also routine.
Trump signed two executive orders last month on immigration enforcement, which ended the “catch and release” policy that allowed people who crossed the border to return to Mexico without being arrested. The other order called for construction to begin on the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
BY: Salena Zito
In the aftermath of losing the presidency, Democratic National Committee members’ most important decision this year will be who leads them out of the political wilderness as chairman of the national party.
The Feb. 25 selection comes as the party’s left wing, protesters and establishment types have drawn battle lines over which faction would be most persuasive in a role concerned more with leadership than ideology.
Yet, in an era of wide party division, ideology and political purity are trumping the core skills that used to be regarded as essential for the DNC chair: the abilities to raise money, run a party organization and be a messenger for elected Democrats.
Only 447 party members will choose the chairman in a process that will be contentious and make it plain that a civil war is raging among Democrats, even if it is not on the public’s radar.
The party is bruised not just because it lost the presidency. It remains in the minority in both chambers of Congress, and holds a historically abysmal number of seats in state legislatures across the country.
Seven Democrats are now running to head the DNC: New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, former Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jamie Harrison, Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown, former Fox News analyst Jehmu Greene and Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.
Buttigieg (pronounced “BOO-dah-jej”) is emerging as the one contender who understands how important it is to grow the party, rather than retreat into an internecine battle over ideological purity. Despite being a little-known mayor of a town known mainly for Notre Dame football and for manufacturing Studebakers in the past, he happily embraces his underdog status. And he comes from a state President Trump won in November.
“As I see it, the race is wide open and there is a real appetite for someone to bring about a fresh start for the party,” Buttigieg said in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
“As I continue to have an opportunity to present myself and my ideas, I think we have a real shot at this.”
All seven contenders have spent the weeks ahead of the Feb. 25 vote at forums across the country showcasing their positions and giving party members and activists an opportunity to meet them in the Midwest, South and West.
Most of them represent factions fighting over what the party should be.
Ellison is backed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Perez by former Vice President Joe Biden. Buttigieg has no such endorsement, but is determined that his party should have a strong message.
“A lot of voters in this past election did not look at our party’s message and think it included them,” he said. “We talked about ourselves, and we talked about our opponents, but I think people sitting at home watching all of that would say, ‘When are you going to ask about us?’
“That fault may be an area of great opportunity for Democrats. When you get down to the actual lives and the real people, we have a really good case to make as to why we are the better party with better solutions. We just have to start making that case.”
While his rivals speak in progressive language, Buttigieg’s tone is more big-tent inclusive. “We need to embrace and unite behind the shared values we all have, like families, freedom, fairness and the future.”
Buttigieg believes the party “cannot build a bigger bench without getting back to the basics, and that starts with paying attention to redistricting.” Of course, he believes he has the best leadership qualities to take on that challenge.
Buttigieg’s biography is impressive in many respects. But, the way he tells it, it’s ordinary.
“I am 35 years old, I live a couple of blocks from my parents, I went to Harvard, I was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, I was deployed to Afghanistan as part of my service in the Navy Reserve and I am in the second term as mayor of my hometown,” he said.
He also is gay, which he disclosed publicly in 2015 as he campaigned for his second term as mayor, an office he not only kept but won with bigger numbers than in his first-term race in this predominantly Democratic Rust Belt city.
Buttigieg breezes through his personal background to get to what he really wants to talk about, which is rebuilding, reshaping and reinvigorating the party in which, he says, he has so much faith.
“If we just ask people how their lives are going to change for the better, given who is in power, we have the better argument to make. But we have to do it not in terms of the politics or the politicians or with the Beltway games or data or statistics. Instead, we have to do it in terms of people’s actual life experiences,” he said.
He is not without big-name support, either.
It’s not a vice president, but a well-respected former DNC chairman, Steve Grossman, who announced his support for the overachieving but relatively unknown mayor.
Buttigieg is painfully aware just how much support the Democratic Party has lost across the country. “We’ve gone from 59 U.S. Senate seats to 48, lost over 60 U.S. House seats. I think it’s 62,” he says correctly, “as well as a dozen governors’ offices and nearly 1,000 state legislative seats.”
Buttigieg said an effective chairman needs not only to be someone who can raise funds, but also someone capable of rebuilding those down-ballot seats that were ignored during the Obama years.
“Look, the party is in trouble,” he explained. “Even if we had won the White House, I think that the really important thing to recognize is, we would have still lost all of those down-ballot seats.
“When you are a mayor, you see how important the decisions that are made in statehouses are. I mean, they affect so many people in so many ways in their lives. We need to win those seats, and we haven’t been.”
Any DNC chairman has several critical roles to fill, according to Mike Mikus, a Democratic political strategist who has worked on House, Senate and governors races across the country.
“First, they have to effectively be able to run an organization and deliver the party’s message, hire competent people and raise a lot of money,” Mikus said.
“The fact that Buttigieg is a mayor and a reservist shows he has the leadership skills that could translate into running a committee that manages various bureaucracies, as well as being an effective spokesperson, which is vital,” he said.
Mikus, who has no political dog in the DNC race, said that because the mayor is open to replicating the effective 50-state strategy that was constructed under former presidential candidate, party chairman and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, he may have the vision needed.
“For us to get in the majority in the Congress, we do have to expand and be competitive in places where moderate Democrats can run and win,” he said. “We cannot go around punishing people who fit their districts,” and instead should “welcome them into the party.”
Whoever wins the chairmanship will have to lead elected officials who still must decide if they want to be a party of protests or one with a strong message that offers voters a reason to support it.
It is a dilemma, considering today’s backdrop of regular protests against Trump. The problem for the party’s candidates is that people who might consider voting for them are tuning out and turning away from the atmosphere saturated with outrage.
“We as a party have to have laser focus on a single issue, like Paul Ryan’s ‘Better Way’ agenda to expand our universe, and we need a chair that can articulate that message, as well as raise money off it,” Mikus said.
That single-issue Republican agenda, along with former Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus’ consistent reinforcement of both Ryan and former House Speaker John Boehner’s “Where are the jobs?” messages, helped the GOP build its impressive nationwide bench of officeholders and candidates.
The GOP’s coalition was built on the backs of centrist Democrats who felt pushed out of their party by ascendant progressives who, just 11 years earlier, were part of the 50-state program that then-chairman Dean built in a controversial move to expand the party.
Buttigieg insists that the party needs to reinstitute that program today, to broaden its appeal and to get more Democrats into elected offices.
“The Republicans have patiently and cleverly built up a bench and a lot of winning campaigns and agendas, all the way down to sheriff’s offices,” he explained. “They wisely did not simply focus on the White House. We need to be that focused, and we need to invite all Democrats to join us in that effort.
“I don’t think that supporting just one part of the Democratic coalition should happen at the expense of abandoning another,” he said. “We have to speak to all of our constituencies through universal values, rather than trying to assemble sort of a salad bar for everybody.”
And that is where Buttigieg will begin, “if I am given the honor of leading.”
BY: Gabe Debenedetti
Former Maryland governor and 2016 presidential candidate Martin O‘Malley is endorsing South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship, just days ahead of the candidate forum in Baltimore, where he served as mayor.
“I’ve known Pete Buttigieg for many years, he has been a terrific mayor. He’s one of those new, up-and-coming leaders in our country and in our party that’s really bringing forward a new and better way of governing,” O’Malley — who himself briefly considered a run for the chairmanship before bowing out in November — told POLITICO. “He speaks with a clarity that our party really, really needs right now. He has been successful in a so-called red state, he brings to the public service of being mayor the background of having served in our armed forces.”
“He is of a new generation of leadership. Our party sometimes talks about bringing forward a new generation of leadership, well, hey man, there’s never been a better time,” added O’Malley, referring to the 35-year-old veteran of the war in Afghanistan.
The endorsement represents Buttigieg’s most prominent nod so far as he faces up against a field of favored candidates that includes Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez — and it’s a clear snub of Perez, a Marylander who O’Malleyappointed to be the state’s secretary of labor in 2007.
Buttigieg, who also has the backing of another influential Maryland member in the party — former state chair Susan Turnbull — jumped into the race later than his rivals, but he has caught the attention of DNC members at recent candidate events.
Ellison has the backing of prominent Democrats including Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Chuck Schumer, while Perez is supported by a handful of former Barack Obama administration officials like former Vice President Joe Biden and former Attorney General Eric Holder.
In a race that is often compared to a proxy war between Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters, however, Buttigieg — much like O’Malley tried to do — is aiming to present himself as a third option, the best one to take on Donald Trump.
“It shouldn’t be about what faction of the losing party you were in in this last election,” said O’Malley, who left the presidential race after the Iowa caucuses. “Who cares?”
O’Malley noted Buttigieg’s role in a state that went to Trump by 19 points in November, painting him as the right choice to counter the president.
“The way we overcome the Trumpism and the all of the threats that the Trump administration presents to our Constitution, our freedom, our economy, our values, and our role in the world is by going large-minded,” he said. “Pete Buttigieg speaks with a clarity of message that gets people’s attention, and his ability to do that in a red state? Well, we didn’t lose the last election because we lost the dinner party circuit inside the Beltway.”
The DNC chair race — which also includes New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Raymond Buckley, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown, and TV commentator Jehmu Greene — will be voted on at the end of February, in Atlanta.
By: Governor Martin O’Malley
If you’ve been reading the coverage of the DNC Chair race, it would be easy to think that it’s all about the past — who dines with the most big shots at Washington salon dinners, who chose the “right” faction in our Party’s 2016 loss. None of that has anything to do with rebuilding our Party now.
The DNC Chair race is not about the past. It’s not about Washington insiders or the moneyed status quo. It’s about our future.
That’s why I’m supporting Mayor Pete Buttigieg — because our Party needs new leadership and a fresh start.
Our Party is at its best when we are the Party of the future.
The only good news emerging from Trump’s electoral college victory is that more and more good people today want to run for office than ever before. Many of these patriotic women and men are millennials. They are not only the largest voting bloc by age, but also more diverse by race and more inclusive by nature than their parents and grandparents. They are the core of the resistance to Trumpism. They were on the front lines with me and my own family at the Women’s March in Washington and other cities. It is important to note that Pete was the only DNC Chair candidate to attend the Women’s March.
The Democratic Party of the past became very good at telling millennials to wait their turn. But the future cannot wait. We must call forward the goodness in the hearts of young Americans if we are going to save our country and overcome the darkness of Trumpism. And that is one very important reason we should pick a millennial like Pete to run the DNC.
Our Party has — for too long — ignored critical state and local elections. While we pretended that Party no longer matters, Republicans racked up unprecedented victories in statehouses and governors’ mansions all across the country. We Democrats abandoned our “50-State Plan,” and we have paid the price for not acting like a national party. We can’t afford to become a coastal party. We can’t pretend that state and local races don’t matter — they do. We must compete in even the reddest of districts.
Mayors are on the front lines, they get things done. They see the whole picture, not just pieces of it. If we’re serious about an inclusive 50 State strategy, we should pick a two-term Mayor from a red state like Pete to run the DNC.
Finally, our Party is the Party of values — American values. Mayor Pete’s service to others has always been rooted in the values that unite us — freedom, fairness, families, and the future. He understands our economy is not money, it is people — all of our people. That we must always connect our values and our political choices to the lived experiences of real people.
If we learned one thing from 2016, it’s that people have lost their faith in the future and their faith that their children’s lives will be better than their own. We need to reinvigorate people’s belief that the Democratic Party can improve their lives. And we need a leader who will speak with clarity to the hopes and aspirations of every family in cities and small towns all across our country.
I know many of the other candidates for DNC Chair in this race. While they are all good people, this election is about who can best lead the Democratic Party forward in these times. Mayor Pete has the vision and experience that we need — especially right now. That is why I’m urging you to Pick Pete for DNC Chair.
BY: Alex Seitz-Wald
In the contest for the next head of the Democratic National Committee, former DNC Chairman Steve Grossman is endorsing South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Pete Buttigieg, a move that could help the mayor separate himself in pack of underdog candidates vying for attention amid the contest’s upper-tier names.
Grossman, who lead the party under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 1999, is only the second former national chair to make an endorsement this year.
The race, which will be decided in a vote later this month, has been dominated by Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez. But Buttigieg, a 35-year-old Afghan vet, has attracted attention as he tries to position himself as the third choice in a field that includes up to 11 candidates.
In letter to be sent to DNC members Thursday, Grossman says Buttigieg can “transform the DNC through the power of his ideas and his ability to execute an ambitious plan.”
“At a time when many have lost faith in the future and have severe doubts that their children’s and grandchildren’s lives will be better than their own, we need a Democratic Party leader who makes optimism a way of life and believes in the power of grassroots organizing to change and improve the quality of peoples’ lives. That’s what Democrats have always believed and it’s at the heart of Pete Buttigieg’s values and character,” Grossman wrote.
Grossman, a former Massachusetts state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate, chaired the DNC during the 1998 midterm election, when the party bucked historical trends and the weight of the Monica Lewinsky scandal to make modest gains in Congress.
The only other DNC former chairman to pick a candidate this year is Terry McAuliffe, who backed Perez.
In an interview, Grossman said the party needs to cultivating younger leaders like Buttigieg.
“The Democratic Party does not have a good bench right now. We need to recruit, train, mentor and nurture the next generation of party leaders at every level,” Grossman said.
And in a race fraught with lingering tensions from the presidential primary, Grossman said Buttigieg can unite the progressive and establishment wings of the party and give Bernie Sanders supporters a sense of “stakeholdership” in a party they haven’t always felt welcome in.
Grossman said he’ll make calls to DNC members he still has relationships with to lobby them to take another look at Buttigieg.
“I know he’s an underdog,” Grossman said of Buttigieg. “I just want them to keep an open mind to give him a fair shot.”
The 447 members of the DNC will elect a new chairman during a meeting in Atlanta on Feb. 24.
BY: Graham Vyse
Pete Buttigieg impressed at Wednesday’s debate for DNC chair. Congressman Keith Ellison and Labor Secretary Tom Perez did not.
With their party now decimated at the national and state level, Democrats cling to one refuge for promoting progressive policies in the Trump era: cities. They still control two-thirds of America’s biggest ones, and mayors nationwide are vowing to defy the new president’s agenda by shielding undocumented immigrants from deportation, pushing their own efforts to fight climate change, and working to preserve their citizens’ healthcare even as the Affordable Care Act faces repeal. Cities are where Democrats can still prove their muster, lead by example, and offer Americans an alternative vision under Republican rule.
That’s part of the appeal of Pete Buttigieg, the 35-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana (pop. 101,000), who was a late entry this month in the campaign to chair the Democratic National Committee. A gay Afghanistan veteran, Harvard graduate, and Rhodes Scholar, he says he’ll turn around his party like he’s turning around his Rust Belt city—promoting progressivism in places where it’s in short supply. Former DNC Chair Howard Dean calls him “the wild card” in this year’s race, and he’s a rising star nationally, promoted by President Barack Obama and hailed by NewYork Times columnist Frank Bruni as potentially the first gay president.
You could see the appeal Wednesday night, when Buttigieg stood out with poise and presence at a George Washington University debate of the DNC chair candidates sponsored by the Huffington Post.
The forum did nothing to heighten the contrast between the two perceived frontrunners—Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison and Labor Secretary Tom Perez—who refrained from challenging each other and raised few discernible differences between each other. But Buttigieg set himself apart from the other second-tier hopefuls: South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison,New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, Idaho Democratic Party Executive Director Sally Boynton Brown, and former Fox News commentator Jehmu Greene.
Buttigieg delivered some good lines, highlighting what he describes as the special accountability of holding local office. “You know, we’re all worried about living in this fact-free world we’re in right now,” the mayor said. “The great thing about the local level is you don’t get to do that. Either the pothole got filled or it didn’t. It’s not like proving I wasn’t born in Kenya.”
He was pithy, too. When candidates were asked for 10 words or fewer to describewhy Democrats oppose Trump’s agenda for America, he was closest to actually adhering to the word count. “Freedom. Fairness. Families. Future,” Buttigieg said.
“I got six left?” he joked. “Lives depend on the choices that are made here.”
That was Buttigieg’s key theme of the night. More than any other candidate, he connected the threat of Trump to real consequences for Americans. “This is life-and-death stuff,” he said, “and we’ve got to make sure we’re talking in terms of that, not in terms of the politicians and their antics, as though they were what really mattered.”
At one point, Buttigieg made the point by describing his Thanksgiving Day. “Thanksgiving morning, by the way, I spent in a deer blind with my boyfriend’s father, so how’s that for a 2017 experience?,” he said. “But in the afternoon, we were sitting around the coffee table and his mom showed me this tube of cream, about the size of a tube of toothpaste. Only it’s not skin cream. Well, it is, but it’s topical chemotherapy her life depends on. It costs $2,000 a month. What is she supposed to do if they take away the ACA she used to pay for that.”
“Twenty million is a big number,” the mayor added, referring to the number of Americans insured by the Affordable Care Act, “but it’s just a number until we bring it back to the real lived experience of Americans, and when we do, we’re gonna win.”
BY: Rachel Dovey
Pete Buttigieg — his is not (yet) a household name. But the 35-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is up for Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s old job as chair of the Democratic National Committee. And although he isn’t the perceived front-runner, his presence at the national Democratic table is a long overdue symbol of where progressive politics are still strong: cities. Even, as is the case in Buttigieg’s town-of-influence, cities in red states.
It’s pretty much a mantra these days: American politics are divided into urban and rural pockets. Whether you measure that by who watches whaton TV (“Duck Dynasty: vs. “Modern Family”) or who voted for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, the chasm still stands. But despite its eye-roll-inducing popularity, that refrain is a more nuanced vision of national divisions than its 2012 and 2008 forebears, when the country was divided into red and blue states. Today, a majority of the mayors of U.S. cities are Democrats. And whatever their political leaning, many of them tend to embrace some policies in line with traditional progressive values. “Cities are where Democrats can still prove their muster, lead by example, and offer Americans an alternative vision under Republican rule,” notes The New Republic.
So it makes sense that Buttigieg, a gay Afghanistan veteran, Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar, stood out among the other candidates at a DNC debate Wednesday night. Against Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison and several others, Buttigieg connected what TNR called “the threat of Trump” to “real consequences for Americans.” And interestingly, the “Americans” he markets himself to (visible in this campaign video) aren’t exactly the wealthy, Clinton-loving Washington, D.C., folks that the DNC seems to have found itself associated with lately. As the South Bend Tribune, Buttigieg’s home paper, made explicit in a recent headline, this mayor is from flyover country.
“This is life-and-death stuff,” he said. “And we’ve got to make sure we’re talking in terms of that, not in terms of the politicians and their antics, as though they were what really mattered.”
He made the point by describing Thanksgiving with his boyfriend’s mother. “In the afternoon, we were sitting around the coffee table and his mom showed me this tube of cream, about the size of a tube of toothpaste. Only it’s not skin cream. Well, it is, but it’s topical chemotherapy her life depends on. It costs $2,000 a month. What is she supposed to do if they take away the ACA she used to pay for that?”
Whatever Buttigieg’s chances with the top DNC spot, his presence, and the interest it’s piqued, underscores a message that’s currently on display at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. From the ACA to immigration amnesty, poverty and climate mitigation, mayors aren’t just balancing budgets and fixing potholes these days.
“Talking with Mayors Garcetti, Walsh and more about innovative ways NYC and cities lead the climate change fight,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted from the conference this week.
Perhaps Buttigieg’s shot at DNC chair is a preview of things to come — and more city mayors will rise to the national stage.
BY: Erin Blasko
Speaking directly to Democratic National Committee members for the first time since announcing his candidacy to lead the national governing body, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg called for new leadership and a fresh start for the DNC Saturday after a disastrous 2016.
He also released a comprehensive platform (www.petefordnc.com/platform) detailing his plan to rebuild the party from the ground up, beginning at the local and state levels, and pledging to visit every state and territory in the first year of his term if elected.
From a downtown ballroom, the former Rhodes Scholar participated in the first of four forums organized by the DNC to introduce members to the candidates for chair, vice chair, vice chair of civic engagement and voter participation, secretary, treasurer and finance chair.
He appeared alongside fellow candidates Sally Boynton Brown, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party; Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party; Keith Ellison, U.S. representative from Minnesota, Fox News political analyst Jehmu Greene and Jaime Harrison, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
John Ralston, of the Nevada Independent, moderated the event, which consisted of questions from Ralston and members of the audience.
“First of all, yes, I am old enough to be by myself here at the hotel bar,” Buttigieg said by way of introduction. “Secondly, it’s BOOT-edge-edge.”
“I believe the DNC needs a fresh start, and I believe I can deliver that fresh start,” he said. “We won the popular vote for a reason: we have the right values. And that means something.”
Ralston began with a question about party unity in the wake of last year’s bitter primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
“I’m not interested in relitigating the 2016 primary,” Buttigieg said, repeating a favorite campaign line. “Donald J. Trump will be president in less than one week. We don’t have time to relitigate the 2016 primary.”
“We’ve got to rise above,” he said, “because our values are the right values, and when we lead with those values and back them with a formidable ground organization, we will win every time.”
Asked about defending those values in the age of Trump, he said he looked “forward to the opportunity to take it to the opposition, the opportunity to call out Donald Trump, so every falsehood is met with fact, every outrage is met with an answer.”
At the same time, he said, “We’re going to need to be smarter than just talking about what a bad guy he is,” and focus instead on the issues that matter to everyday Americans.
“We were so busy talking about Trump, they were saying, ‘What about me?” he said.
In response to a question about voter turnout, Buttigieg took a dig at Vice President-Elect Mike Pence, the former governor of Indiana.
“I live in Mike Pence’s Indiana, the epicenter of voter ID laws. I even got turned away trying to use my military ID to vote,” he said, adding, “The systematic effort to get fewer people to vote is voter fraud and we’ve got to call it out.”
He noted his platform includes a voter registration innovation grant program to develop new and innovative ways to improve the voter registration, and turnout, nationwide.
In response to a question about transparency as it relates to the DNC budget, he said, “As mayor, I’m very comfortable with transparency and accountability,” noting the city of South Bend posts its checkbook online “where you can see our spending down to the penny.”
He said he would consider a ban on corporate donations and appointments to the DNC.
His campaign surprised attendees with complimentary refreshments at the conclusion of the forum — tables of cold water and soda and hot coffee and tea.
Squeezing honey into a cup of tea, Miriam Davis, of nearby Litchfield Park, said she came into the forum supporting Ellison but left impressed with Buttigieg.
“He was honest and had a lot of good ideas. I really liked that he’s very transparent, that he wants to have conversations with neighborhoods and communities and that it’s one community at a time,” said Davis, a member of the progressive group Stronger Together Arizona.
“I was leaning towards Keith as I came in today,” Davis said, “but honestly, I think Pete would be an excellent candidate and I would lean towards him now.”
She said she planned to share his materials with other members of Stronger Together Arizona.
Although leaning toward Jaime Harrison, Howard Robbins, of nearby Scottsdale, Ariz., said he liked what he heard from Buttigieg.
Could he see him as chair?
“Absolutely. He’s a mayor, so he’s got some administrative experience. He’s a veteran, which is important to me. I think he could provide the leadership the party needs,” Robbins said.
Sandy Greenhut, former chair of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party, traveled from nearby Scottsdale to hear Buttigieg speak.
“He’s young, it’s wonderful,” Greenhut, now in her 80s, said of Buttigieg after greeting him outside the ballroom earlier in the day. “That’s what we need in the party, young people. We need young people, young ideas.”
Pete for DNC campaign volunteers, including Chasten Glezman, Buttigieg’s partner, worked a table outside the ballroom at the conclusion of the forum, handing out blue “Pick Pete” T-shirts along with stickers and campaign pamphlets.
“It felt to me that there was a great response to everything we had to say, and now that it’s over I’ll get a little more feedback and find out what really resonated with people,” Buttigieg said.
Asked about the format, he said, “I think people really want to see you in this context because it’s also a tryout for the role of lead spokesman for the party, so nothing beats the one-on-one relationships, but speaking in front of a crowd is a really important part of the job.”
He spoke only briefly, rushing off afterward for more one-on-one meetings with committee members.
BY: Jonathan Martin
Warning that beleaguered Democrats cannot afford a replay of their contentious presidential primary in the race to lead the Democratic National Committee, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., Pete Buttigieg, entered the contest for party chairman on Thursday, presenting himself as an alternative to the two leading candidates.
“This is not a time to relitigate an old battle,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “We’ve got to transcend the narrative that this is some kind of proxy fight.”
He did not mention them by name, but the 34-year-old mayor was referring to Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez and Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who have secured the most support to date. Mr. Perez was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton and a finalist to be her running mate while Mr. Ellison was one of Senator Bernie Sanders’s most visible surrogates.
Many Democrats have expressed concern about reopening wounds from a presidential primary that highlighted their ideological, generational and racial fissures. Mr. Buttigieg supported Mrs. Clinton late in that race, but he is now casting himself as someone who can rise above the fierce internecine wars that linger from 2016, presenting himself as an alternative to a pair of Washington-based candidates.
“I think there needs to be a voice for communities like mine,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “And I don’t just mean communities in the Midwest, but communities where the decisions made in Washington actually affect people.”
His entry into the party contest underscores just how fluid it remains with just over six weeks until Democrats gather to elect their next chairman. In addition to Mr. Ellison and Mr. Perez, Jaime Harrison, the South Carolina Democratic chairman, Raymond Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic chairman, and Sally Boynton Brown, the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, are in the race. None of the candidates is close to securing public commitments from a majority of the 447 members of the party, many of them based in the states and territories, needed to win.
Mr. Buttigieg is little known to most of the voting members, but his gilded résumé has caught the eye of many influential Democrats. He is the two-term mayor of a Rust Belt city who is a Harvard University graduate and Rhodes Scholar. He is also an openly gay former Naval officer who served in Afghanistan.
“This is one of the most talented young leaders in the Democratic Party,” said David Axelrod, President Obama’s former chief strategist. “And he comes from the middle of the country, where the party needs to be strengthened.”
Mr. Buttigieg, who lost a bid for state treasurer in 2010, is widely believed to have higher ambitions for elected office. But he said he believed the party chairmanship, which offers a high-profile media platform, was more consequential at the moment.
“Look, no one sits on his mother’s knee and says, ‘I want to be national party chair when I grow up one day,’” he said, promising he would resign as mayor if he won the race. “But I can’t think of something more meaningful than organizing the opposition in the face of what I think will be a pretty monstrous presidency and challenging time out here in the states.”
That is certainly apparent in Indiana, where Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the state’s governor, helped propel the Republican ticket to a victory that also swept in a new Republican senator and a Republican successor to Mr. Pence.
Mr. Buttigieg said Democrats had no choice but to aggressively compete for working-class white voters if they were going to start gaining ground in such places.
“Sitting back and waiting for the map and demographics to save us — that’s not going to be enough,” he said.