SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CN) – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg officially announced his bid for the U.S. presidency at a rally held on Sunday in downtown South Bend. Buttigieg, often referred to by the moniker “Mayor Pete,” spoke to a packed crowed from inside the former Studebaker Building 84, making it official that he was running for president.
“I’m here to join you to make a little news. My name is Pete Buttigieg, they call me Mayor Pete. I’m a proud son of South Bend Indiana and I am running for the president of the United States,” he told the crowd.
The South Bend mayor, who was elected in 2011 and again in 2015, told the crowd that his three campaign ideals were simple, and could fit on a bumper sticker, “Freedom, security and democracy.”
Hitting those talking points, Buttigieg stressed that he believes climate change is a major threat to the entire country and that presidential elections should be determined by a popular vote.
“We can’t say it’s much of a democracy when twice in my lifetime the Electoral College has overruled the American people,” Buttigieg said. “Let’s pick our president by counting up all the ballots and giving it to the woman or man who got the most votes.”
Regarding security, Buttigieg took shots at President Donald Trump’s immigration policy saying, “The greatest nation in the world should have nothing to fear from children fleeing violence, and even more importantly, children fleeing violence ought to have nothing to fear from the greatest county in the world.”
Healthcare also came up during the speech, specifically how Buttigieg sees it as a personal and economic freedom.
“Your freedom depends on a lot more than just the size of your government. Healthcare is freedom. Because you’re not free if you can’t start a small business when leaving your job means losing your healthcare,” Buttigieg said.
As a member of the often bashed millennial generation, Buttigieg casts his younger age as a positive that can give the country a fresh start.
“I belong to a generation that is stepping forward right now. We’re the generation that lived through school shootings that served in the wars after 9/11. And we’re the generation that stands to be the first to make less than our parents. Unless we do something different,” Buttigieg said in a promotional video.
Buttigieg, who was born and raised in South Bend, is the first openly gay presidential nominee from a major political party, and at 37-years-old, he would be the youngest U.S. president ever if elected.
Since Buttigieg took control of the mayor’s office, South Bend has seen a drop in unemployment and a small increase in population growth.
In addition, Buttigieg has been credited with a project known as “1,000 Properties in 1,000 Days” that sought to fix or demolish blighted properties throughout the city. The program completed ahead of schedule and is at least partially credited with improving the conditions of South Bend.
The program did have detractors, who argued the project’s code enforcement was unfair and aggressively charged residents for fixes they could not afford, while threatening to demolish the properties.
Regarding the code enforcement, Buttigieg told the Christian Science Monitor, “I’m not sure we got that completely right. If there’s one thing that I would encourage people to look at in the future, [it] is to really find a fair way to fine tune that enforcement because a lot of it almost inevitably falls to the discretion of the code enforcement personnel.”
Prior to being elected mayor, Buttigieg graduated from Harvard and won a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University. He was also commissioned as an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve in 2009.
His military service continued during his time as mayor, as he was deployed to Afghanistan for seven months in 2014. Buttigieg held the position of lieutenant in the Naval Reverse until 2017.
Before becoming mayor of South Bend, Buttigieg launched a failed campaign to become Indiana’s state treasurer. In 2017, he ran for the Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and while he did not win the position, the race raised his national profile.
As mayor of a small city, Buttigieg may seem like a longshot for the Oval Office, but he has gone from mostly unknown to a viable presidential candidate in a short time.
Part of that viability is a fundraising quarter that saw Buttigieg raise over $7 million dollars and a round of media appearances where he stated his case to the public at-large.
Early polling has shown an improvement for Buttigieg as well, as one recent Monmouth University poll of likely Democratic voters shows him in third place, only behind Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.