Tue, Apr 16, 2019 - Page 6 News List

‘Mayor Pete’ joins Democratic race for US president


Attendees listen to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announce his presidential candidacy at an event in South Bend, Indiana, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the little-known Indiana mayor who has risen to prominence in the early stages of the 2020 Democratic presidential race, made his official campaign entrance on Sunday by claiming the mantle of a youthful generation ready to reshape the nation.

“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 US$1 million in donations poured in, Lis Smith said, speaking for the campaign.

Buttigieg, a Rhodes scholar and Afghanistan War veteran who has been essentially campaigning since January, has joined a dozen-plus rivals vying to take on US 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.”

Buttigieg is to 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.”

His poll numbers have climbed. Some polls put him behind only US Senator Bernie Sanders, who sought the party’s nomination in 2016, and former US vice president Joe Biden, who has not yet said he is running.

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

“Right now, it’s pretty fun,” Buttigieg told reporters last month while visiting South Carolina , where he was met by larger-than-expected crowds.

His challenge is finding a way to sustain the momentum over the long term and avoiding becoming a “flavor-of-the-month” candidate.

Scrutiny of his leadership in South Bend has increased, as has his criticism of US 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.

Former US presidents Theodore Roosevelt was 42 when he took office, while John F. Kennedy was 43 and Bill Clinton 46.

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